School
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hamilton

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Good Meeting Practices

Meetings with teachers, principals and school board officials are the most important opportunities you will have to gather information about your child’s education, establish relationships with your child’s education team, and to provide input into how your child’s education needs should be met.

In this section, we provide information about the skills you will need to effectively advocate for your child at meetings with your child’s education team.

What Do I Need To Do Before the Meeting?

If you are nervous about the meeting and want to be an effective advocate for your child, spend some time before the meeting to prepare.

Think about the purpose of the meeting.  Think about what you would like to be the outcome of the meeting.

If at all possible, do not go to a meeting alone.  Take someone who knows your child, or a support person from a local community organization.

Find out the names and job titles of the key players at the meeting.

Bring you child’s Home File.

It is a fact that your appearance, and what you are wearing, may affect how others perceive you, so dress appropriately.

Arrive at the meeting on time.

What Should I Do at the Meeting?

Your choice of seating can make a difference.  To project an image of confidence, you may want to sit at the head of the table or next to the most senior official at the meeting.

If you bring a support person to the meeting, avoid contradicting each other.

Focus on your child's interests.  Repeat, as often as necessary, your desire and commitment to working with your child’s education team to developing an appropriate program for your child.

Present your solutions as one possible solution.  Present your reasons before proposing a solution.

Ask the members of your child’s education team how similar challenges or difficulties have been solved for other children.  Be open to creative solutions from other members of your child’s education team.

If you feel that you are being intimidated or not being shown respect, ask to re-schedule the meeting, and find a support person to attend future meetings.

Do not threaten any action you are not prepared to carry out.  Let them know you are aware of your rights without threats.

Make a record of your meeting by taking notes or bring a tape recorder.  Don't hesitate to ask someone to repeat something if you need more time to write it down.

Write down the date, time, and place of the next meeting.

Signing Documents

If you are asked to sign a document, make sure you clearly understand what you are signing.  If you have any doubts, tell the people at the meeting that . . .

a) you would like some time to think about what you are signing;

b) you would like to have another meeting to discuss issues further;

c) you cannot sign because you do not agree with what is written in the document--give the reasons why you disagree;  or that

d) you will sign, but only if certain changes are made to the document.

Following-up on the Meeting

It may be a good idea to follow-up meetings with a letter or note, thanking the person for his or her time, and confirming what you understand to be the commitments made and necessary next steps.

For longer meetings you may want to follow-up with a letter to the chairperson, or highest-ranking person at the meeting.

Do not be discouraged if you walk out of a meeting and then realize that you should have said or done something differently.  This is part of the evaluation process and will help you in communicating more effectively next time.

If you do think of something important after the meeting, write a note or letter, or call the school.  If there was a conflict or you are sorry about something you said at the meeting, act quickly to resolve the conflict or repair any misunderstandings.

What Basic Information Do I Need?

To be an effective-parent advocate at meetings, there is basic information that you need about the key players attending the meeting, what roles they play on your child’s education team, and about basic meeting procedures.

The following is a list of 12 questions that you should be able to answer, either because you already know the answer, or because you have collected the information during the meeting (by asking these questions at the meeting if necessary).

Beginning of the Meeting

  • What is the name and job title of the chairperson of the meeting?
  • Who will be taking notes at the meeting?
  • Has everyone at the meeting been introduced?
  • Do I know everyone at the table and why they are there?
  • Has the purpose of the meeting been clearly stated?
  • Is there a written agenda for the meeting?
  • Have I been asked what I would like to discuss during the meeting?

Conclusion of the Meeting

  • Have the main points of agreement or disagreement been summarized by the chairperson?
  • What actions have members of the meeting agreed to?
  • Will I receive a written statement of the actions that have been agreed to at the meeting?  Ask the chairperson what documentation you will receive following the meeting.
  • What is the date, time, and location of the next meeting?
  • If a meeting is not scheduled, is it necessary to hold another meeting to discuss unresolved issues?

Meeting with the Classroom Teacher

Meeting with your child’s classroom teacher at the beginning of the school year is a good first step to ensuring your child’s success at school.

The first meeting between you and your child’s classroom teacher is a good time, to talk about your expectations for the school year.

Teachers should provide parents with an overview of instructional content areas, his or her teaching style and philosophy, and the classroom routine.  If this information is not provided by the teacher, ask. 

Teachers can help parents to become active partners in their child’s education by sharing information about class routines, grading criteria, homework, test-schedules, projects and class trips.  Having this information will make it easier for parents or guardians to ensure that assignments are handed in on time, that their child has the necessary permission to attend a class trip, or are prepared for a project.

Parent-teacher interviews are confidential.  So, if you choose, you may share information about your family, or other personal information that might be affecting your child’s progress or behaviour at school.  For example, information about changes in your family due to a family illness or a period of unemployment.

Parents can also talk to the teacher about what works at home in motivating your child or improving performance.

When teachers and parents share this information both will be in a better position to ensure that your child is successful and happy at school.

Regular Parent-Teacher Contact

An important goal of the first parent-teacher meeting is to discuss a plan for regular and ongoing contact that will ensure that concerns are addressed before they turn into problems.  By agreeing upon a system for regular and ongoing communication, parents and teachers can monitor progress, and address unexpected needs quickly.  You can ask:

“How often should we meet to discuss my child’s progress?”
“What is the best time to meet?”

Parent-Teacher Interviews

Parent teacher-interviews are held two or three times a year at the end of each term when report cards are sent home. They are very short—usually 10 or 15 minutes—so it is important to prepare before the interview to make the best use of that short time.  If you need more time, you can schedule another appointment to meet with the teacher.

Before the Meeting

Read your child’s report card, and make notes about any questions or concerns you may have.  Talk to your child about the report.  Write down any questions that you would like to ask the teacher.

Bring your list of questions to the meeting.  Arrive a few minutes early.

Here is a list of the kinds of questions that you might want to ask the teacher:

What does my child do well?
What skills does she or he still need to develop?
Is my child getting extra help?;  in what subjects?
What is your homework policy?
How much time should my child be spending on homework?
How does my child get along with the other students?
How can I help my child at home?
What is the best way to contact you if I have more questions?

During the Meeting

The teacher will review your child’s report card or show you samples of his or her work.

Ask your questions.

Tell the teacher what your child likes and dislikes about school.

Let the teacher know if you think there is too much or too little homework.

Take notes so that you can share the teacher’s comments with your child.

Follow-Up

Talk to your child.  Stress the positive things the teacher said.

Talk about how you and the teacher are going to help with the things that need to be improved.  Listen to your child’s comments.

Are you happy that your child understands how things are going to improve, and his or her responsibilities?

Is your child ready and motivated to help make the improvements happen?

Does everybody understand the goals and what actions need to be taken to accomplish these goals?

When and how will you know when the goals have been accomplished?

Monitor improvement with the teacher and your child.

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