The “30 million-word” gap is arguably the most famous but least significant part of a landmark study, Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of Young Children, by the late University of Kansas child psychologists Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley. As the work turns 20 this year, new research and more advanced measuring techniques have cast new light on long-overshadowed, and more nuanced, findings about exactly how adult interactions with infants and young children shape their early language development.
How many of us have sat through pointless or less-than-informational parent-teacher conferences? It often goes a little something like this: Mom asks, “How is Jeff doing in your class? I see he earned a “C,” and I want to know why.” Jeff sits silently, afraid the teacher will “spill-it” about what he has been up to in class. The teacher responds, “Sometimes Jeff does his work and is on-task, but other times he struggles to focus and talks too much. He loves to get the class going and cuts-up too much. I also have a problem with Jeff turning in his work.”
….What if we asked Jeff to articulate and provide proof his own learning? What if he prepared evidence of his learning to show himself, his teacher, and his parents what he had achieved through his own effort? What if we put him at the center of the conference and the learning?
What was the most interesting thing you learned in school today?
As a dad, I want to hear my kids geek out about something cool they learned in school. It might be fractions or volcanoes or some random historical event. Talking about this helps me find informational texts that they might enjoy. It lets me know what they find fascinating that I might be missing at home. Plus, it sets the tone for the fact that learning is still a blast.
By this time of year, parents have a clear understanding of how their child is doing academically as well as socially. Students need the opportunity to show their parents what they are have been learning in the classroom. Each child needs the opportunity to take a leadership role and teach his/her parent. My fourth graders prepared, organized and led the conference with their parents. Since my students are the experts, they were proud and excited to share their accomplishments. Our district has had student-led conferences for as long as I remember, but this was the first time I truly took the backseat.
Whitaker and the other D.C. home-visiting teachers are trained and paid with funds from the D.C. public schools and the Flamboyan Foundation. Using a model developed by educators in Sacramento, the teachers visit in pairs after school or on weekends. They don’t do surprise visits. They don’t make assumptions about kids or parents. They don’t take notes. They listen more than talk.
Overall, I would say it was the best PTA Meeting of the year because it was filled with great content and important information. The most awesome part of the experience, at least through my lens, was that the presenters at this PTA Meeting were our kids.
So, don’t let these situations surprise you or throw you off your game. For the most part, it’s normal. Now, if you seem to be getting more than your fair share of complaints every school year, then it’s time to take a look at that, and get a colleague you trust to give you some honest feedback about why relationships with parents have been so tough for you and how you can improve. This is especially important if you’re getting the same complaints from multiple parents across multiple years– that’s a sign that you may need to either change something you’re doing, or change the way you’re communicating it to other people so they have a better understanding up front of what you’re doing and why.
Whether you’re from California or not, I think it’s worth reading. Here’s how it begins:
The vocabulary has changed, and so have the numbers and the format. The two-page report that parents will receive later this year describing their children’s results on the new Smarter Balanced tests on the Common Core State Standards will be very different from what they’ve seen in the past.
School leaders and teachers do their best to engage parents in the fun events or the ones that focus on report cards and grades like parent-teacher conferences. But we don’t always engage parents when it comes to those things that focus on learning. It’s a balance because we don’t want to always use educational language but we also don’t want to patronize them by using non-educational language either.
The bottom line is that when we are initiating changes within our classrooms and schools we have to make sure we don’t leave parents out of the equation.
We have partnered with the Nellie Mae Education Foundation to tell parents’ stories and to bring together key lessons to create a resource that will help guide important educational decisions facing parents today.
A Few Words For Parents offers some good advice to parents about their children reading. It’s from the blog Catching Readers Before They Fall.
Here’s an excerpt:
Should I give my child prizes for every book she reads?
It is great to encourage a child to read more, but reading should be its own reward. When we offer kids pizza or stickers for reading a certain number of books, we are actually sending a message that reading is something unpleasant so we have to resort to prizes to get them to read. Also, when kids are counting the number of books they read in a race for a prize, they often sacrifice quality for quantity.
As the blogger writes:
If you are a teacher reading this post, feel free to duplicate it to use in one of your parent newsletters or to give out at parent conference time.
A group of Spanish-speaking parents in Ohio filed a complaint with the U.S. Justice Department this week, saying that their children’s school districts are discriminating against them by not providing interpreters and translated documents during special education meetings.
How often does this conversation happen for parents? “How was school today, what did you do?” We all know the response – “nothing, not sure, can’t remember, don’t know” etc.
At John Swett Elementary (@jseroadrunners), we’ve torn down the classroom walls and are connecting parents with school life and Common Core implementation on a daily, even hourly basis! Remind and Twitter have profoundly changed our communication flow from what’s happening in the classroom to directly connecting with parents, via their phone.