Hudson Valley Parent

HVP October 2016

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16 Hudson Valley Parent n October 2016 By KAREN KAUFMAN ORLOFF I t's an age-old dilemma: Parents ask kids how their day went in school. More times than not, they give that familiar, one-word answer: "Fine." It's not a lot to go on, is it? That's why staying in touch with your children's teachers is so very important. Phone calls and emails are one way to achieve this, but a face-to-face meeting is still the best avenue for getting or giving informa- tion that will help our kids do their best in school. Typically held a few months into the term, a routine parent-teacher conference is often the first time moms and dads get the opportunity to talk one-on-one with their child's teacher. It's a window into Johnny or Jane's daily activities, a way to find out their academic strengths and weaknesses, and a glimpse into how they socialize in the classroom. The purpose of a conference is really to ensure each child has a pos- itive and effective school experience, according to Della Ferreri, a French teacher at Millbrook Middle School and High School. "A parent-teacher conference is an opportunity to dis- cuss the child's progress and to come together as a team to help the child be successful," she says. What to expect Parents can be understandably nervous when they first arrive in the classroom, but Ferreri stresses the importance of being open to accept- ing information, be it positive or negative. "Come with an open mind," she says. "Children have strengths and weaknesses and it's normal to feel a little nervous knowing there might be a problem area to discuss." With that in mind, Ferreri says it's helpful if parents prepare as much as possible prior to the discussion. "Parents should talk with their children about school and ask to see assignments. During the confer- ence, parents may ask: 'How is my child doing in your class – academ- ically and socially? What are her strengths? Are there areas my child needs to work on? How much home- work should my child be doing? How can I support my child at home to help her be more successful? Are there after-school opportunities for extra help, if needed?'" she adds. Be prepared Lori Christie, a seasoned Hopewell Junction parent of five, tries to be as prepared as possible for every conference. "I jot down notes before and during the meeting," she says. "It helps me remember concerns or questions. Write questions down be- forehand because you are more than likely going to be side tracked and forget your own thoughts." When there is a problem or concern, be it academic or behavior- al, it's sometimes hard for parents to hear, notes Elaine Andersen, a former first-grade teacher at Gay- head Elementary in the Wappingers School District for 28 years. "Parents, especially in lower primary grades, may be hearing for the first time that there is an issue," she says. "When a teacher speaks of a child's lags, it may awaken a parent's protective nature and strong emotional reaction, possibly blaming themselves or blaming the teacher for having unrealistic expectations." Andersen says it's essential for parents and teachers to respectfully listen to each other to jointly come to a viable solution. "Building a calm, respectful ambi- ance can enhance the sense of trust in both parties. Avoiding blame is paramount. We must all come to the table with a solution-oriented atti- tude. The teacher needs to be clear how the behavior affects her lesson presentation and the other students, as well as the child in question. She might ask the parent for suggestions and offer some of his or her own," she says. Sometimes, behavioral or other issues stem from the child's personal life. "It is important to let the teacher know if there's something out of the ordinary going on at home that could be affecting the child's perfor- mance in school," Ferreri says. Teamwork Whatever the cause of the child's difficulties, parents and teachers can Making the most of conferences with teachers

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