No Report Card Surprises
Way back in October before the first reports were issued, I was busy inviting half of the parents into my class for heads-up interviews regarding their child’s progress. So many of my students were reading and writing below grade level, had serious behaviour issues, or were just plain struggling to meet the basic demands of the grade 3 French Immersion curriculum. Many students had the “progressing with difficulty” box checked off. In fairness and for reasons of professional integrity, parents need to know before the reports go home. Experience has told me that, although the conversation may be difficult, especially if it’s being heard for the first time, inviting parents in with the idea of forming a support team for their child is a smart way to start off the school year. Start the collaboration early and it can be so much easier if, later on down the road, there is some information you need to share that will be difficult for them to hear.
So, the highest needs were addressed, all parents were contacted and the pre-Parent Teacher Interviews went really well. By seeing many parents in the weeks before the official Parent-Teacher Interview period, I was able to have enough time to discuss in more detail how things were going in school and to have a more relaxed conversation than the 15 minutes provided on interview night allows. Some parents confirmed by examples from home what I was drawing to their attention, while others were positive about setting up supports for their child. However, when the proverbial dust had settled in the weeks following the Progress Reports, and I thought that I had touched base with the administration, learning support colleagues and parents regarding the progress of all the students with the highest needs, I suddenly realized that there was one student who had received `progressing well` on the report, but who was not progressing as well as I had originally believed. In hindsight, I realize that I had been focussing on behaviour goals with this student more than academics, and this is what had overshadowed the challenges the student was experiencing in the first few reading and writing assignments completed in class. What to do?
Firstly, I let the administration, learning support teachers and the parents know. Since lines of communication were already well established with the parents, I was able to be honest with them and explain that while progress was being made in the area of behaviour in class, their child was exhibiting difficulties with more demanding assignments. Showing samples of work done in class following the progress report period highlighted the need for help to meet the demands of the grade 3 curriculum.
Secondly, I was able to attend a Student of Concern meeting with the administration and the learning support teachers where we explored how we could determine areas of need for this student, the kinds of supports we could provide at school and what the parents could seek, if they chose to.
Thirdly, I scrutinized assessments, samples of work, and my note book, to make sure I had an accurate profile of the student, and to make sure that the parents had all the necessary information to pave the way for the first Report Card in February. Although the Fall Progress Report may have indicated a student who in general at the time did not appear to be progressing with difficulty, the first term Report Card will indicate what the child`s challenges are in detail, and thankfully, the parents are already aware.
The value of communicating regularly with parents cannot be underestimated. In this case, it was beneficial to avoid any confusion or defensive reaction and to convey the fact that I have the child`s best interest at heart. The positive effects of Parent-Teacher collaboration for the child are also significant and hold each of us accountable.