Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Day in the Life of a New Teacher...how do you approach parents with a sensitive topic and have a difficult conversation?

How do you approach a parent and let them know that you are worried about their child? What should you do if you think the child has a significant problem.....what if you are wondering if the child is autistic or severely delayed? These are time sensitive and no doubt about it, difficult conversations. Conversations like this take honesty, wrapped up with a whole lot of empathy. For beginning teachers and veteran teachers this is hard core.

When a teacher suspects something is significantly wrong, it is important to discuss the concerns with the people in the school who could offer the most support--the building administrators. The building administrators will be able to help the teacher determine first steps.

Begin the parent/teacher conference on a positive note...share the child's strengths. Here's what the conversation might sound like:

Teacher: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to meet with me. I am enjoying getting to know your child so much! I'd like to share some of the things I am learning about your child. I'm learning that he/she likes to-----. Share an example of a positive interaction with the child. Ask the parents how they think things are going...ask the parents if they have any concerns or questions.....

Then, the teacher should share relevant data....say: I administered this assessment---show it to the parents and explain how it was administered and why. Then say--- this is what your child knows----and this is what he/she needs to know by the end of the year....

After the parents have had a chance to digest the information and ask questions...the teacher might say something like....a concern I have is ----and I'm wondering what you think?

Ask the parents to help you think through next steps.....record these thoughts and then follow up. For example, if the teacher agrees to try a certain strategy, the teacher should try the strategy and then let the parents know how it is working. If the parents agree to take an action, the teacher should follow up and ask the parents, how it is going.

There's not an easy answer to this question. Intervening early is important. Don't wait until the end of the year to muster up enough courage to talk to a parent. Ask someone to help you think about how to approach this situation. Parents deserve to know. Partner with them. Work as a team so that the child has the best year possible!

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