Oct
22

Parent/Teacher Interview Tips: Ask “What will you teach my child next?”

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teacher-question-two

This is the second post in a series covering four critical questions you need to ask your child’s teacher in your next parent-teacher interview:

  1. Question #1 – “What does my child know now?”
  2. Question #2 – “What will you teach him/her next in (pick a curriculum)?”
  3. Question #3 – “How will you know that s/he knows it?”
  4. Question #4 – “How will I know that she knows it?”

Question #2 – What will you teach him/her next?

If the teacher has real information about where your child’s skills are in relation to her current curriculum, you have passed a major hurdle. If your child is behind, at least the teacher knows the skills that are lacking and what has to happen to catch your child up to the rest of the class and to the standards set by the district, province/state or federal Department of Education. If your child has all of the necessary skills, you are ready to ask the next question “What will you teach him/her next?”

Hopefully the teacher has an entire set of educational objectives that s/he can produce and walk you through. For example if the teacher were using our Maloney Method reading program. She would refer you to the Scope and Sequence Chart which outlines exactly what is taught, in what order to what level of excellence.  The same would occur with any of the many Direct Instruction programs, because they each have a complete plan for what skill will be taught in which order.

If the teacher does not have a written set of objectives in the order in which the student will learn specific skills, or does not have a scope and sequence chart showing the complete plan for teaching specific skills in a subject area, you have a right to be disappointed. The same can be said about therapists treating children on the autism spectrum. If there is no map then you never really know where you are.

Given the situation where the teacher is unable or unwilling to disclose a precise plan for what will happen in any subject area, the parent has the right to be frustrated. How can you hold anyone accountable if you do not know what they intend to do or not do?

At this point the parent should ask the teacher for a list of specific objectives in reading, math, science and any other subject they deem important from the teacher. (e.g. The class will be starting long division exercises in math). They should allow the teacher a day or two to collect his or her thoughts and sketch out plans for each subject. Most teachers are expected to keep a lesson planning guide as a matter of course. Some do, but many don’t, primarily because no one monitors the plans to see if they are being delivered as written.

If the teacher fulfills the request for a written course outline in key areas with dates and topics, the parent can leave the meeting with reasonable expectations.

The parent should also remember Tip #2, not to leave the meeting without a future appointment. In this case it should coincide with the last day of two of the time  planned in the list of objectives. Again the teacher is placed on notice that you are serious and that you will not be going away any time soon.

Path A

The teacher commits to writing the plans for her lessons in key areas of study. You now have at least a short-term plan that informs you about what your child will be taught.

Path B

The few days pass and the teacher has not responded. Perhaps the meeting gets pre-empted, or the teacher is absent or unavailable as scheduled. You now have no plan and not a lot of cooperation. I recommend a phone call or visit to reset the scene, with information to the teacher that you are less than satisfied and that any further delay will force you to ask for a meeting with others in authority. This will usually produce results, but if it does not, you need to meet with the teacher’s principal a.s.a.p. to bring some influence to bear on the problem.

You have to be the overseer of your child’s education. If you do not fulfill this role, your child can easily fall behind without your being aware of a problem. You should not wait to be notified of a problem by the school. In my many years of experience running my learning centre, parents are finally told in May that their child is in academic trouble. By then it is too late to remediate the problem and the whole process starts again in the following year. Simple problems that could be solved easily if treated early become monstrous issues for everyone concerned. It all about that ounce of prevention, and that will only happen if you are on deck.

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