Dear Mrs. Brooke,
I am used to a traditional parent/teacher conference. It seems they do things differently now and we are invited to a “goal setting” conference.
They are coming up in October where the teacher, my child and I sit down and make goals for the coming year.
Are there any things I should remember to keep in mind during these conferences and if my child’s there, how can I ask questions of the teacher about my child’s learning?
From, Anxious parent
First of all, I am sure you are not alone in feeling a little anxiety during conferences.
I think all of us – teachers, parents and children – feel like it is this big important meeting where we are going to get all this big news about the child’s learning.
And possibly, that is so, but I am hopeful that most parents and teachers communicate often about a child’s progress and don’t just leave it for conference time.
Knowing this, goal setting conferences are coming up for many of us and can be a wonderful opportunity to teach your child a life skill of setting goals.
This is not a time for you to discuss with the teacher other concerns or issues you or your child is having. I recommend scheduling another time for this talk without your child. Most teachers are more than happy to accommodate.
Goal setting conferences are just this. As a team with the teacher, you are able to talk with your child about their strengths, areas where they may need to improve and set goals to work on all year long.
This is so valuable and important work for lifelong learning.
Here are a few tips to make a goal setting conference successful:
• Talk with your child beforehand. Preparing yourself and your child by discussing areas of strengths and areas where they would like to work on beforehand helps the conference run more efficiently.
Discuss with your child what a goal is and why they are important.
Share with them the goals you have made in your life and continue to make and work toward.
Most teachers will send home information about the goal setting conference before the conference and will be more specific.
Some teachers like a child to focus on two academic goals (such as reading and math) and a behavior goal (like raising your hand), while other teachers choose just one goal for each child to really focus on throughout the year.
• Before and during the conference, listen to your child.
The child’s input in these conferences is just as important as the teacher’s and parent’s.
Yes, maybe they are already good at math but want to be even better. It is OK to have a goal that improves their strengths.
If they are set on working on something, allow them to do this. Why just focus on their areas of improvement?
Research shows focusing on people’s strengths actually helps improve overall performance.
• Make sure goals are measurable.
Too often we set goals that are hard to meet because we don’t know when we met them.
For example, “By the end of second grade I want to be a better reader,” does not allow us to know what “better” means.
A more effective goal would be, “By the end of second grade I want to be reading the ‘Box Car Children Series’ with fluency and comprehension.” This is measurable.
• Make sure you state how you will help your child meet these goals at home and follow through.
For instance, if your child’s goal is “I want to be able to read and spell the 100 high frequency words correctly by the end of the year,” maybe you post these by your child’s desk or even inside their journal or writing folder at home.
Create for them a space for writing and help make it a daily routine at home where writing is integrated for real-life purposes, such as thank you notes or in a diary, which will allow for daily practice.
Support these goals and post them somewhere where you and your child will not just forget about them.
These are just a few tips. Remember making goals is often the easy part.
The hard part, as we all know, is following through.
Possibly, it is a time in life where we all need goals.
The family could sit down together and make goals together. Or, if you already have goals, share them with your child.
As your child’s first and most important teacher, “model the way.”
Mrs. Joy Brooke is the first and most important teacher of her 6-year-old son and 4 year-old daughter. She resides in Kirkland with her husband and two children. Brooke is a National Board Certified teacher in Literacy: Reading-Language Arts/Early and Middle Childhood. She holds a bachelor’s degree in educational studies and a master’s degree in educational policy and management from the University of Oregon and endorsements in Early Childhood Special Education, English Language Learners, and Reading K-8. She is currently working on her Doctorate of Education at Seattle University in education leadership. She is co-chair of First Book – Seattle, which gives books to children who need them most. You may learn more at askmrsbrooke.com and follow Ask Mrs.Brooke on Facebook and Twitter. You can also contact Mrs.Brooke by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions regarding your child’s learning.