Blog · Teacher Voices

How to Prepare for Your Child’s School Conference: A Teacher’s Take

(This is a guest post by Dana Kaplan. Dana has her MA in Early Childhood Education with an additional certification in Gifted Education. Dana joined PS 33, Chelsea Prep for the 2006-2007 school year. During Dana’s tenure at PS 33, she taught Pre-K for two years, launched the ICT-Kindergarten class, and independently created, piloted, and launched PS 33’s Gifted and Talented Program. Dana recently launched her personal business, Developing Empathetic Education with Dana (D.E.E.D.), where she consults with schools and parents on the critical needs for Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) as well as gifted and talented and “all things school related.” When not working, Dana can be found volunteering at MSBI Pediatric Emergency Department and Observation Unit, where she created and spearheaded MSBI’s second annual Making Dreams Come True book drive in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday.) 

Yes, the NYCDOE calendar notified you last spring, and still my students took glorious pride in telling their parents about “this date.” I’m referring to the marvelous conference days that happen only twice a year. While many dreaded “this day,” I looked at conferences as a celebration of growth and an opportunity to navigate new paths for areas that needed support. While fully knowing parents approach conferences with expectations and immediate questions comparing their child to others, my number one job for each family member was for them to have time to SHINE AS INDIVIDUALS! Thus, shifting the paradigm and creating Parent-STUDENT-Teacher conferences.  

Parent-STUDENT-Teacher conferences reaffirmed everyone’s commitment to the student by creating an unbreakable equal-lateral triangle. To reiterate the imperativeness of our triangle, every child told their parent(s) to figure out a way for the child to be present because the meeting was more than a report card, it was a time to actively show up. The jargon, student led conferences deconstructed the triangle because our time was more than the student showcasing their successes; we needed to bust through glass ceilings and begin designing the student’s next paths as a team! 

While most parents jumped onto the roller coaster, some were mystified as to why I wanted their child present. Over the years, pushback from many occurred. I skipped my NYCDOE/UFT “scheduled breaks” to accommodate families because I have zero tolerance for excuses! Exhaustion wasn’t part of my vocabulary, and buzzing timers were always ignored as keeping to ten minute blocks was impossible. Not a year went by without my Principal or AP hounding me for ignoring their announcement; conferences ended. NO ONE will ever hear me complain about “this day” because as an educator, hearing a person speak to their parents about why areas are hard or how they need their parents to help more at home is exactly WHY I choose to be an educator, chose to use my “breaks,” chose to email late into the night, and continue to choose to advocate for children! 

As spring conferences arrive, I sit here wearing a different, yet similar hat. While I’m no longer an NYCDOE educator, I stand tall knowing that conferences are for the STUDENTS, parents, AND teachers to watch, listen, and feel the glee booming from learners’ voices as they honor their growth, hard work, and most importantly, dedication to what they still want to explore and accomplish before the school year ends! 

Since I choose to wear a different hat without inhibitions, I choose and can do my job in a different way! Today sheds light on what we as educators, families, community members, and most important, moral humans must do to support all learners walking into school. I know my approach to conferences is an anomaly, and I also have data to prove the insurmountable increase in overall academic, social, and emotional growth each child experienced after using their POSITIVELY POWERFUL VOICE during a time that is rarely offered! 

**Please note, very few teachers/schools believe in students attending conferences. Thus, OUR job is MUCH BIGGER! 

As conferences approach, take your child in front of a mirror. Hold them tight and ask them to individually share ALL of their greatness! Close your eyes, breathe in together, open your eyes, and tell your child ALL of their greatness! Relish this time, and repeat as often as possible!

When Thursday arrives, take FIVE DEEP, SLOW BREATHS, and remember… 

* YOUR CHILD IS A ROCK STAR! 

* YOUR CHILD IS AWESOME! 

* YOUR CHILD WANTS AND WILL CONQUER THE WORLD! 

Help unlock the doors for your child! Below are a few questions to marinate over as you head into conferences and any meeting you have with your child’s current and future teachers. 

  1. How can I best support my child in areas they resist at home, including and not limited to academic and social emotional growth? 
  2. When thinking about my child’s biggest achievements thus far, what are your plans to introduce them to new opportunities that will expand risk taking and curiosity over the remaining months of school?
  3. My child gravitates towards _________during homework. What options can we create to marry the areas they lean into with the areas of resistance?
  4. My child’s anxiety escalates when they are randomly called on during large group discussions. How can we encourage participation while lowering their anxiety?
  5. We’re concerned you’ve given our child higher scores in areas they continue struggling with at home. Please provide evidence of our child mastering these skills in school and tools we can implement at home.  
  6. I’m concerned that my child isn’t moving in ______, and there’s been limited communication around the lack of movement. What is your plan and how will we work together as a team to support my child seeing, feeling, and hearing their growth?

YOU are your child’s advocate! YOUR VOICE IS IMPERATIVE!

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