Two questions come to mind for any parent/guardian getting to know those working with their child: ‘Do you care about my child?’ and ‘Do you know my child?’ As a teacher this may be your third conference of the day or possibly your fifth conference this week, but for each and every parent it is likely their only conference and by far the most important.
My oldest daughter had taken a math test at school and did not do well. The school informed me because of the test score she would be placed in a remedial math group; however they completely failed to take into account other factors that strongly pointed to the fact that this test was a fluke. I am a strong advocate that every child get the instruction he or she needs, but as we left the school that day I walked away feeling my child was seen only as a number. Instead of the staff truly knowing her, her personality and abilities, she was minimized to a test score. Needless to say, I walked away from this interaction feeling like the school was not truly invested in my child.
Knowing that strong, school-parent relationships do in fact improve outcomes for students, how do school personnel convey to a parent that they care about and are invested in their students? Case conferences are a prime time to build positive parent relationships. Here are some general tips to help use this time as a relationship builder:
- Be careful not to make the conference more about compliance than the student. The IEP is more than a checklist – it is a plan for an individualized student. Keep the theme of the meeting focused on Who this conference is about as opposed to What this conference is about.
- What preparation have you invested in the meeting? Along with data and other academic recommendations, what other positive stories and information have you made a plan to share?
- Can you speak in depth about any of the student’s interests or involvement beyond school, such as extra-curricular activities?
- Don’t judge! Raising a child with a disability poses many challenges. Listen to understand and offer ways the school can support.
- Be prepared. Be professional. And be passionate about the child’s success.