When properly executed, parent-teacher conferences are an excellent means of discussing your ADHD child's academic progress and development. Learn more about these meetings and pick up some tips to ensure that your conference goes well.
Conferences with teachers are a normal part of any parent's life. These meetings can be used to ensure that your child's education remains on track and address any potential issues. For parents of a child with ADHD, these conferences can be an especially useful exchange of ideas.
This almost goes without saying, but the need to be ready is so great that it bears repeating at least once. Extensive preparation is the key to a productive parent-teacher conference. If you enter the meeting without having prepared any questions or outlined any clearly established goals, your experience will be disorganized and frustrating.
The tips and ideas below explain exactly how to prepare for a parent-teacher conference and ensure that your meeting goes well.
Things to Bring
A big part of being prepared involves bringing the appropriate materials to the conference. A few relevant items that may be of use during this meeting include:
- A list of questions/concerns: If anything particular has you worried, be sure to make a list of the major talking points that you would like to see discussed. Try to avoid speaking in general terms; simply asking 'how is my child doing?' will not lead to the in-depth answers that you need. Be as specific as possible and address the exact issues that are on your mind.
- Your child's report card: This document can be used as a helpful reference as you and the teacher attempt to identify your child's various strengths and weaknesses. If your child has an IEP, you may also have a daily report card that contains insights into your child's behavior and academic performance.
- An 'action plan': Of course, even an extremely productive meeting in which you manage to agree upon your child's needs is useless unless you can devise a strategy to address these concerns. Create an action plan that will help your child and provide for his or her deficiencies, and share this plan with your child's teacher, who can then adopt the plan and make any adjustments that he or she deems necessary.
- An open mind: Parent-teacher conferences require cooperation, teamwork, and trust. Try to enter the meeting with an eye towards compromise; your child's teacher is a trained professional and you should take heed of the advice offered.
Understanding the Teacher's Philosophy
According to school psychologist Terry Illes, there are essentially two schools of thought when it comes to ADHD and treatment of behavioral disorders: the 'Behavioral' and 'Academic' models.
Teachers who subscribe to the Behavioral Model theory feel that misbehavior is due to a child's own motivations and is a conscious and voluntary act, while those who believe in the Academic Model believe that this kind of behavior is entirely involuntary and out of the student's control. It is critical that you determine your child's teacher's own beliefs on the subject, as they will undoubtedly influence the way your child is taught in school.
Talk to Your Child
An often overlooked member in these situations, your child can provide important help as you prepare for a conference. In many cases, children can provide invaluable personal insight that can help both you and the teacher understand the situation and work towards a more effective solution. If your child has any questions or concerns of his/her own, now is the time to share them and ask for help. In some cases, children may be intimidated to share openly with their teachers, and your status as parent qualifies you as an excellent mediator.
Depending on your situation, it may also be important to inform your child about the meeting itself. Children may be confused or worried about the nature of the meeting (are they in trouble? Did they do something wrong?) so you should clearly explain why the conference is occurring.
Do not, however, bring your child to the conference, unless specifically asked to do so.
Talk About Life at Home
Though it may seem irrelevant, discussing your home life can actually be an important tool in improving your child's educational experience. Let your teacher know about any strategies or methods that work well at home; you'd be surprised at how easy they are to implement in a classroom setting. This conversation also gives the teacher the opportunity to suggest changes that can help you child. In addition, if you're having trouble at home, your teacher may be able to offer advice and support.
In addition to the more 'formal' issues, be sure to tell the teacher about your child's hobbies, favorite books and TV shows, and any other unique interests. This information helps teachers connect with children and gives them a platform that can be used to form connections with your child and make school a more relatable and enjoyable experience.
Remember, You're on the Same Team!
Throughout the course of a conference, it is entirely possible that you will be hearing negative feedback about your child. While it is natural to feel defensive about such an issue, it's also essential to remember that your child's teacher shares a common goal: provide the best possible education for your child.
Sometimes, completing this task requires being honest and showing a little tough love. Your child's teacher may have some unkind truths to share, but bear in mind that these items are brought up with the intent of finding a solution.
Say for example that your child has a difficult time sitting still during class. Your child's teacher may go on to list several instances of bad behavior, but this is not meant to guilt you or suggest that your child is intolerable; this list of examples is meant to provide concrete proof to support the teacher's claims about misbehavior.
Your child's teacher is an essential force when it comes to your child's development and growth. Establishing a trusting partnership is essential, and part of a working relationship involves communication and tolerance. Take any criticism in stride, and focus on finding a solution instead of becoming combative.
Though the items mentioned on the list below may not be as major as the ideas discussed above, they are still essential to a smooth and productive meeting with your child's teacher:
- Be on time: Teachers run on a tight schedule and showing up late is almost certain to disrupt their day. Not only that, but it's rather rude and suggests that the conference is not important to you. Plan on arriving five minutes early, just to be safe.
- Be honest: It's tempting to lie in an attempt to protect your child, but refusing to admit to your child's faults (or refusing to reveal any) will only have a detrimental impact in the long term.
- Keep calm: With any parent-teacher conference, there's bound to be disagreement. Even if things get contentious, do your best to remain calm and work on a sensible solution. Losing your temper solves nothing and will only harm your child's development. Remember, everybody's on the same team.
- Take notes: Keep track of the most important ideas being shared and jot them down for future reference. If your child's teacher consents, record audio of the meeting to ensure accuracy.
- Ask for Help: Don't be afraid to admit that you don't understand a particular idea or term. If the teacher refers to an educational code or academic policy that you don't understand, ask for clarification.
- Prioritize: Your meeting may not last long enough to discuss all your concerns, so bring up the most pressing concerns first to ensure that they are not ignored or forgotten.
Parent-teacher conferences are an excellent opportunity to discuss your child's progress and ensure further academic success. With diligent preparation and an open mind, you're sure to have a productive meeting!
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