Communication with teacher important to child’s success

Superintendent Mark RossNovember 1, 2018

Since graduating from college a couple of years ago, my two children have started their own journeys into adulthood. Still, I can clearly remember being a nervous parent attending my child’s first high school parent-teacher conference. Having spent my entire career in education either as a teacher or school administrator up to that point, I didn’t really have any reason to feel nervous While my children were not perfect by any means, getting decent grades was fairly common for both of them.

That being said, walking into my son’s freshman math class brought back vivid memories of my own experiences and struggles with geometric facts and figures. In fact, had it not been for some timely tutoring from my best friend, I may not have passed geometry on my first attempt.

Depending on your own school experiences, sitting in a parent-teacher-student conference can sometimes be more stressful for a parent than it is for the student. However, it’s critical that parents are active participants in this important school event. For primary parents, it’s an opportunity to meet and speak with the person your child spends the majority of their day with. For parents of secondary students, it’s time to touch base with multiple teachers your student sees during the day and get a better understanding of how they are progressing in individual subjects.

These conferences may be limited in time, so it’s important to have some key things in mind to ask the teacher before you meet. In addition to academic progress questions, you might want to ask how your son or daughter is getting along with other students or socializing. You may want to inquire if they are participating in class discussions, asking questions or seem engaged in their work. It’s important for parents to get a sense of how their students are doing socially as well as academically in the school environment. Your child’s teacher will have the best sense of how things are going in both of these areas.

The one question I always asked my son and daughter’s teachers was what they thought we could do as parents at home to support our children’s learning. I wasn’t particularly asking if they should do more homework, but more about specific skills or strategies that we could perhaps enhance or encourage at home. As a former history teacher, I always felt comfortable talking about current events with my children or visiting local historical places like Fort Vancouver or Lewis and Clark Trail sites on the Columbia whenever we could. However, since science and math were never my strong subjects, I appreciated advice from teachers on how to extend my children’s learning at home. Some great suggestions from teachers included taking my children for walks in the woods and pointing out shapes and objects that nature provides-encouraging them to explore and ask questions. Or taking them to the local library to read books about space, the oceans and the world around us. I still remember a conference with my daughter’s second grade teacher who suggested we drive out of town, away from the lights, and find a place to look at the stars. To this day, my 23-year-old still likes to go camping in remote areas and count the constellations visible in the sky.

I’m constantly thankful for the support and encouragement my children received from some exceptional teachers as they were growing up. As a Superintendent, I would encourage you to keep in touch with your child’s teachers not only during conference time, but frequently throughout the year. An open channel of communication between parent and teacher is critical to your student’s success. The more we can partner together as a school system to take the “mystery” out of public education, the better we will be in developing caring and compassionate citizens who are critical thinkers with inquisitive minds and who are a benefit to our community.

Thank you for all that you do to support your Battle Ground Public Schools.


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