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- Beacon Literacy

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 Make the most of the parent/teacher conferences

By Markham Hislop of The Calgary Beacon

In order for our children to get the most out of their school experience, teachers and parents need to work as a team.  For that to happen, there must be communication between home and the school.  Lani Donaldson of Beacon Literacy offers some questions every parent should ask to make the most of the parent/ teacher conference.

Ms. Donaldson points out that it’s important for parents to realize they are free to call the school and ask for a meeting with the teacher at any time.  Once a meeting has been set, parents should go in with a plan.  Never start with, “How is my kid doing?” as this causes the teacher to comment on everything because that’s what was asked for.


Rather, if the parents have a specific set of questions to ask, the discussion will be more focussed, the information more useful, and the child wins. 

“Parents are experts on their own children,” says Ms. Donaldson.  Therefore, parents will frequently be the first to notice a difficulty.
 If something appears to be wrong, it is time to call for a meeting.  The sooner a problem can be identified, the sooner it can be dealt with.  “In our system, from K to 3, we learn to read, and from Grade 4 for the rest of our lives, we read to learn.  If we miss that window, it starts to spiral.”

There are different things to watch for, depending on the age of the child.  Ms. Donaldson explains that in Grade 1, children will get frustrated but accept that something they don’t get this year, they will likely get in Grade 2. 

By Grade 2, problems are starting to surface more.  Behavioural problems also begin as the child becomes more frustrated.   Ms. Donaldson says that by Grade 3, “If the child does not start to learn to read, their spirit breaks and they lose confidence in their ability to learn”.  After that, they either become withdrawn or they act out. 

When parents come to Beacon Literacy for an assessment, they are given strategies to help their child in the classroom and at home.  It is important for parents to share these with the teacher.  Ms. Donaldson points out that it is up to the teacher whether or not they implement the strategies. 

Teachers should never tell a struggling reader to simply read more at home.  This only compounds the problem.   They need to refer the child for assessment to determine the source of the problem.  Many children need to return to basics. 

Whether a child is in Grade 1 or High School, when they come to Beacon Literacy, they usually need to be re-taught the basics.  The approach, however, changes based on the age of the child.  If the child is in the teen years, it is important that they see results quickly to restore some of their confidence.  Beacon’s system will usually fix the problem in 5 to 10 weeks. 

For the parent whose child isn’t struggling.  Ms. Donaldson still recommends they attend a parent/ teacher conference. Make a teacher’s day by letting them know that your child loves the class.  It is also a great opportunity to ask the teacher about their plan for your child’s success; the child is currently doing well in the class, how do you keep it that way?