Conducting effective parent-teacher conferences is an awesome way to boost parental or guardian involvement in your classroom & in the school community.
A parent-teacher conference is a great opportunity to:
Parent-teacher conferences are usually twice a year. Often, they align with the end of the reporting period. They are brief meetings, lasting about 10-20 minutes. Conferences are typically scheduled a few weeks in advance. Some schools may request additional meetings to chat about challenges or changes that cannot wait for the scheduled meetings.
Most schools set aside specific dates and times for conferences, but if school schedules conflict with family schedules, it's worth the effort to request a different time that is mutually convenient- even if it is a phone call.
School support staff may attend the conference if necessary. An administrator might attend at your request, or the request of a parent or guardian. Some teachers like students to attend part of the meeting to show that parents and educators are both part of the instructional team. There are a variety of ways to conduct parent teacher conferences.
BUT here are a few tips to keep your meetings effective:
Gone are the days that we can call ourselves inclusive teachers or inclusive schools because we have opened the doors to all kiddos. That movement was a great starting point about thirty years ago, but now we have to do better. We know more, we have access to more resources/information/supports, and, mostly, our students deserve more.
A week ago, a teacher told that she is struggling because she has a student in her class that requires a lot of support. She has some TA support for toileting, physio-therapy, and transitions. However, this teacher feels that the student requires more TA support. After some conversation, she told me it is because she just cannot give this child the support she needs to be successful on her own. I get that!
It is a challenge to make sure all kiddos get the support they need to be successful in the classroom. However, if we start picking who we can support and who might need too much support for us then we are going back to that spot thirty years ago- when we opened the door and said we are now inclusive!
Inclusive education requires us to change what we always did to thinking openly, providing accessibility, and doing things differently. Remember my mantra: 'difference is normal'.
So, how can we start to think and act inclusively with all the challenges teachers face?
First thing, if you are reading this post (and any of my other posts), you are already thinking or starting to think more inclusively. You are gathering information, hopefully thinking about it (!), and you are probably connecting it to your professional practice. THIS IS SUPER IMPORTANT!
Building inclusive classrooms does not happen overnight or even in one month or one year. It takes time to learn, to understand, to make connections, to try, and to feel confidence. Most educators believe in inclusive education. All educators value their students and want what is best for them. I believe in these two points, teachers are great! However, the challenges with inclusive education in the classroom and schools today stems partly from lack of resources, lack of training, lack of collaboration, and lack of time.
What can we do, when we cannot change the big ticket items, to move from thinking inclusively to acting inclusively? Keep reading to find out 9 ways you can start building an inclusive classroom.....
Last year about this time in the school year, I sent out an email to classroom teachers with some information. In this email, I included a list of 5-6 actionable steps to increase accessibility for all students. I just wanted to share a few tidbits of information to mull over and, perhaps, have a conversation about down the road.
Below, I have included the things to think about or actionable steps for your reading. Many of you area already doing all of these things, some of you need a reminder, others might just need clarity into why these steps are important in your professional practice. Wherever you are in your journey, I think you will find the below read and attached handout (click on image or click here) helpful!
Universal Design For Learning, UDL, is a common phrase used today in both schools and other organizations. However, it can be difficult to implement in the classroom for a variety of reasons. To counter some of the challenges with implementation, I have included a list of 5 ways teachers can support UDL in their learning spaces.
Katie Novak of Novak Education provides a great analogy of UDL- think of it as a dinner buffet. You provide your guests with variety, choice, and let them decide what is best for them (some guests might need a little more guidance on your dishes than others). As the host or as a teacher, choices and options are provided that you believe will 'satisfy' all guests and members of the learning community. However, you allow them to pick for themselves what will satisfy their appetite or their learning needs. Choices are not specific to one particular child, rather you provide a variety of choices (with all in mind) and allow the kiddos to pick what works best for them.
I have included this post in my Food For Thought Friday which typically focuses on parents, collaborating, and other forms of team building. Whereas this post is titled 5 Ways to Implement UDL In Your Class it does not seem to really fit in my Food For Thought Friday. BUT- it does! The 5 ways of implementing UDL is a support for teachers who are thinking about implementing a more 'all student' centred approach, but also it is an FYI for parents who are wondering how their child might be supported in the classroom. It is crucial that parents feel comfortable with their child's education- one way to do this is to understand how ALL students are being supported in inclusive learning communities.
A new school year not only brings new learning and experiences for our students, but also for teachers. For students, the learning becomes a little more challenging as everything is taken to the next level. For teachers, the curriculum and activities might remain somewhat constant (with tweaking), but our students change and that is where the real learning takes place.
Everyone knows that in today's schools there is no normal, unless you start to adopt my mantra of 'difference is normal'. In other words, if you have met one student, you can confidently proclaim that you have met one student. Unlike in yesteryears when students fit into one of two categories 'meeting' or 'not meeting', in the case of the later, students were placed in different spaces, under different teachers, or sometimes, in different schools.
Thankfully, we have moved on from the two category system of 'meeting' or 'not meeting' to an inclusive approach that welcomes all students for their differences. But have we?