Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Parent-Teacher Conferences

Most schools are nearing the end of their first grading period and traditionally this is when parent conferences are usually planned. Often this conferences take the shape of telling the parents all the “wrong” things their child is doing to earn a bad grade – or it is a time for the parents of the  high performing students to come to school to hear how great their child is or is doing. All too often the successful students’ families are more likely to attend. Which speaks to the success of those students – family involvement and engagement is a strong determinant of student success.  The low performing students have a lower “turn out” for conferences, Open House, etc... There are a myriad of reasons for this lack of involvement; intimidation with the system, do not speak English, exhausted due to the strain of poverty, lack of time, cultural barriers, and not wanting to hear another negative thing about their child – I do not believe they are absent due to a lack of caring for their child nor do I believe they do not care about their child’s success.  These parents need to feel welcome and empowered.  

At our school we started a tradition of “goal setting” meetings at the beginning of the school year. This was a school-wide effort at our school.  This may not be possible at your school if the leadership does not endorse this policy, but as a teacher you can still have some of the same elements in your parent/teacher meetings. In fact this goal setting idea grew out of ideas from two of my teachers (I was a principal) one teacher always (on his own time) met with families at the beginning of the year to set expectations and to have a positive “first” interaction, another teacher came up with the goal setting at conferences (she was tired of the same old, same old negative interactions, that really did not affect change) – I combined these ideas and expanded upon them – let me tell you what we did and the results.

We created a one sheet contract with data such as tests scores, in-progress grades etc. and the teacher or team of teachers stated a positive observation and an opportunity for improvement or growth (this needs to be in a positive “voice” not critical) for the student – we then shared the contracts with the students and they came up with a goal or goals. We then invited parents to meet with us – we were very proactive about getting them to attend. The students actually helped to get their parents to the meetings because they knew the meetings were going to be positive and that the teacher was going to say some “god” about them. At our school (a low performing middle school) we had 97% turn out plus the meetings were heartwarming, emotional, empowering, and productive. At the meeting the teacher, parent and student agreed to the goals and how they would support and attain the goals. A Huge growth mindset!!! They were wonderful, powerful meetings with smiles and tears of joy everywhere.Goal Setting Meetings Video 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

It is never too late

Today one of my viewers of the video “Proven Classroom Management” asked “Is it too late to start over a week after school starts?” My answer; NO, IT IS NEVER TOO LATE!
Now to be perfectly honest it is much better to start the very first day of class, but it can be done later and should be, if needed.  It will be harder, however it can be done. So let’s lay out a process by which you can get an effective learning environment in your classroom. 

You need to establish a personal presence, in order to have control of the learning environment so the classroom is safe, secure, and comfortable for all your students to learn. The best way for that to happen is for the students to respect you. For that to happen you need control.  To get control after school has already started you need to first decide the most important procedure to implement.  In order to rein them in you need to concentrate on no more than three to begin your road to full control. 

Some suggestions:

  •         Students must be quietly doing an opening activity at the start of class
  •         YOU not the bell needs to excuse them at the end of the period
  •         YOU call on them, they do not shout out answers 

So you decide on the two or three things that you are going to implement – you tell the students you are not happy with the current environment and that we are going to start following some new procedures.  You then explain the new procedures, you explain your rationale and then you implement them.  Now remember not to negotiate with the students or try to justify your decision, just tell them why and then move on. They do not have to agree, nor should you waste time trying to convince them. It is what is needed to improve the learning environment so they will have to follow the procedure.  You must be consistent and follow through or it will not work. You may have to spend time practicing and/or repeat actions until it becomes a routine for them.  It is harder to un-do bad habits so it may take a little longer than if you had started the first day, but don’t despair if your expectations are clear and you are consistent it will get better.  Frankly the students will be happier too.  They like consistency and knowing what is expected of them. After the new procedures become routine you can add others as needed. It is never too late so just establish the new procedures and follow through. I guarantee it will work because when you demand respect and give respect the learning environment improves exponentially.    

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Build Positive Parent Relationships

Today I would like to talk about the power of having your students’ parents on your team.  If parents are engaged you will be able to count on their support.  Children will be more engaged if their parents show interest and have positive things to say about you and school.

I suggest that you reach out immediately.  Have each of your students fill out an index card with their parent(s) name, phone number, where they can be reached, and the best time to reach them.  Every day pull  three to five cards from the “lottery bowl” and tell those students that you will be calling their home that night (or whenever it is convenient) to tell their parent(s) something positive about that student.  This will accomplish a couple of things; the student will make sure their parent is there to answer the call (so you will have the opportunity to make contact with the correct contact number) and since your first interaction is positive and a happy experience for the parent, if you need to call them with a problem later they will be more receptive and your partner in solving the problem.   This positive first interaction will also encourage them to be more interested in what is happening in school which will translate into student interest.  Students will be thrilled because you will have said something good about them to their parents.  Try it! It will build positive communities.  

I have included below another YouTube video link – this video talks about student engagement.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A good start to the new school year.

For many people (especially students and teachers) it is the beginning of a new school year.  There is anticipation and excitement in the air, then panic and a sense of overwhelming dread – will I know what to do, will my class be a nice group of kids, will I have enough planned, will my peers on campus like me, will my principal like me, how will I ever teach all of this content ?    eek!!!  
The first day of class does come quickly -- if you have already started, take a deep breath, if you have not already started there is time to get ready.   
I call this SOS 4 Teachers – SOS; Simplify, Organize, and Smile – you should have some things ready to go from the beginning (if you have already started, do not worry you can still establish an effective learning environment, you just have to push the “re-start” button).

Some things to have established:
  • ·         Procedures and routines (rules, etc.)
  • ·         Seating arrangement
  • ·         Assessment so you know what to teach
Share your expectations with the students. Make sure you are consistent. Take your time and practice the routines and procedures until it is automatic – do not rush into curriculum if the environment has not been established they will not learn.  
Always try to keep it Simple, Organize, organize, organize (you will actually save time in the long run) and Smile – it makes you and the students feel good. I will post at least once a week (possibly more) and I will try to answer followers’ specific questions – I have included below a YouTube video link that will help you get started (the name of the channel is smartatmath, but it is for all teachers not just math teachers) – good luck and enjoy – you have chosen the most rewarding (albeit sometimes difficult) profession and  YOU make every other profession possible.

Classroom Management Part 1 (structures)