SETTING UP MEETINGS WITH YEAR TEACHERS
As with your initial meeting with your child(ren)'s Year Teacher at the start
of year, bear in mind the Year Teacher has a class full of children with interested, enthusiastic Parents, Guardians and Carers (PGCs), all wanting regular updates and especially wishing to get meetings and reports, with a view to seeing what
will happen between now and the end of the scholastic year.
He / she shall
try to do the best possible job to satisfy the questions and queries of everyone for the last term(s) of the school year.
YOU NEED to give your child's Teacher VERY GOOD NOTICE that you wish to arrange a meeting, plus the time to prepare fully.
Your child(ren)'s Teacher will be familiar with his / her strengths and challenges well before the end of the first term, but may want to gather material to show you developments at this next scheduled meeting.
PLEASE give the Teacher and you room to breathe, and stagger your meetings so that you do not hit or cause a
bottle-neck! EVERY PGC shall want to hear how the year is going for his or her child, and how the rest of the year may work out.
The Summer Break should be in the back of your minds, when you consider the questions you wish to ask. As with all working PGCs, finding appropriate and affordable childcare, educational, sporting, and generally
positive experiences for children and young people during this long break is difficult to manage. If you have a good idea of your child(ren)'s particular interests and those skills you can help them develop by choosing specific courses over the Summer,
making decisions on courses should be easier.
However, children and young people really
do need a break from study. Therefore, while a brief course on a specific or a couple of specific topics might be beneficial, time spent with others in a social context is equally important. Every minute of
every day should not be managed. There has to be time for playing freely, discovering things for themselves. If you can organize with family and / or friends to have your children cared for by an appropriate number of carers on a ratio appropriate
to the laws of where you live, the cost could be shared, and the experience for everyone would be magnified. Planning ahead makes these opportunities easier to arrange. Good courses, good childcare, and good carers
are always snapped up early.
When you have decided on your final draft list of questions
(which you should discuss with family and friends, who have a good deal of contact with your child / children and know him / her well, and who may have useful suggestions that did not dawn
BY NOW, you should know which is your child(ren)'s favoured
Learning Style. There are three basic Learning Styles: Auditory, Visual, and Kinaesthetics, plus various others.
We all have a most favoured Learning Style and, then, possibly a secondary preference. There is no universal style of learning,
and no way is better or preferable to any other. It is important to know what kind of learner your child is, so that you source material that will suit him or her for use at home. The basics follow.
AUDITORY learners prefer to learn through words
- usually by listening. For example, listening to conversations and to the radio, and they take in language very quickly. They are more likely to remember people's names, carry on interesting and complicated conversations from early,
and think aloud.
VISUAL learners tend to learn by seeing, and may prefer pictures, diagrams, images, colours, film and video. They can easily visualise ideas or images in their minds. They prefer to see a demonstration rather than hear an
explanation. When reading, they will conjure up images based on the text, and are likelier to remember a face than a name.
KINAESTHETIC learners prefer to learn by 'doing' and 'touching'. They concentrate and work better when
movement is involved. They enjoy crafts, and would rather take something out of the box and work out how to put it together, rather than read the instructions. They frequently dislike sitting still for long, and often wriggle, tap their feet, or move
their legs when sitting. They learn best by moving their bodies.
[The above notes on Learning Styles are based on VTT HO 4.4 Learning Style Questionnaire document, Copyright of City of Dublin Vocational / Educational Committee / National Learning
Network Study Skills Manual May 2010.]
LIST OF SUGGESTED QUESTIONS
You shall have a good many questions of your own. The following are merely suggestions to help get you started on your lists, and for inclusion
as you choose. Many of the following suggestions are repeats of the list I gave you at the beginning of the school year.
I suggest that each PGC has a page on a smartphone, laptop, or in a notebook, specifically for listing questions for a specific
child's Teacher, as they come to mind.
If you have more than one child, keep your pages well separated, so that each reflects the specific child in question.
It may be helpful for you both to have the
questions under headings, such as specific subjects, degrees of interaction in and out of the classroom, degree of personal development, etc, for later comparison.
Make a note of subjects you feel Jose / Anna seems not to have grasped as yet, so that you can ask the Teacher if he / she thinks there is a reason for this. It could be that your child has not reached that developmental
stage in class, or given that teaching mathematics, for example, has changed so fundamentally, you and your child may not be talking the same language on that subject.
You will be aware of any learning difficulties or possible difficulties with retaining
attention on games or listening to stories, while they must be part of the themes you plan together to ask the
Teacher about, you cannot let this information dictate all your thinking when you are making your list, or asking for
advice / suggestions. You must keep an open mind.
ASKING grandparents, family, and family friends, if they have noticed how Jose or Anna has done in recent months, may uncover views that never
struck you. People like to help, especially family, DO NOT worry about asking for opinions or ideas.
When you are each ready with your final draft
lists for the Teacher, the two of you have to compare your own lists, to make one comprehensive one, including useful suggestions from anyone you have asked. This comparing of lists may uncover some interesting ideas one or other of you thought, that the other hadn't considered. You shall both have a quite different
perspective, and that is good.
questions may appear to apply particularly to younger students, but the ideas behind the questions are relevant to every age and ability.
(i) Has Jose / Anna appeared to keep up a steady degree of participation in the class during the year so far? Does he / she take
turns? Does he / she volunteer ideas often? Or volunteer to take on jobs?
(ii) Does he / she seem to make friends easily? Is he / she more comfortable in small or large groups?
Does he / she try to stick with one or two friends for working in groups? Is her / she inclined to stay alone? Or does he / she seem comfortable being placed to work with any children? Can YOU (PGC) name
Jose's / Anna's special friends in School?
(iii) Which subject(s) would YOU (the Teacher) say continue to be challenging for Jose / Anna? Does
he / she keep trying, or does enthusiasm fall off at a particular stage? These questions need YOUR answers as well as the ones you get from the Year Teacher at your meeting.
(iv) What were her / his stand-out
improvements or developments in particular subjects so far? (Did he / she suddenly grasp a concept in mathematics, or discover sentence construction?) Ask again, always ask, if
you are not certain, what are the developmental norms for your child(ren) - these should be treated as guidelines, as developmental norms for early learners are not hard rules. Children learn in their own time, when they are ready to do so.
You can then put in your own homework investigating the details, and possibly developing your own family activities to help support
and encourage your child.
What would YOU (PGC) say are Jose's / Anna's best subjects judging from what you have seen from the homework or schoolwork brought home, working all the way down to those which are most challenging,
as well as the Teacher's views? (You will know a great deal of this from informal conversations with, or notes from the Teacher, but it is good to get an overview to help the family plan activities, and some home tutoring (for older students) with books
and various materials you could get from the School library, or your Local Library.) Libraries don't just do books anymore, and if you haven't visited for a while it's a eye-opening experience. They have amazing,
interactive, experiences for young children, junior and secondary level students - catering for many interests and abilities, and are very inclusive.
would YOU (PGC) say are Jose's / Anna's natural strengths, and which subject always seems to be very hard work for him or her? There has always to
be room for surprize. Your child may be doing very well at a subject, but because the way it is now taught is not familiar to you, you may not see the gains.
level do YOU (the Teacher) envisage Jose / Anna hitting in the near future and longer term? Is there any activity the Teacher would recommend the child works on during the school break? If the answer is 'Yes', take advantage of every moment, get a list of ideas, and ask for advice on good LOCAL young student experiences / group activities (the Local Library is always
a good source of information) which would suit Jose's / Anna's needs and personality. If an older student needs to do some school work over a break, it is important that he / she likes the idea or the group activity, and which one would give him
or her the best experience.
(viii) Based on all the feedback and answers from the Year Teacher, ask him or her if Jose / Anna shall have opportunities in
the School, this year and next year, to get specific support for weaker subjects, and if this is necessary. Also ask if there is some type of streaming system introduced as the students get older. Different schools have different
terminology for much the same activities. Some schools do not stream students ever. Your child(ren)'s School may not use the term 'streaming', but there may well be some form of matching students with similar levels of performance in
discrete subjects. If the answer is 'yes', ask if the decision on what 'stream' suits a particular student is based on the Teacher's observations over the year; examinations during the year, or at the beginning of the new school year, or a mixture
of all. Also, ask if students get a mixed streaming depending on the disparity between their strongest and weakest subjects.
Try to get to grips with your child(ren)'s School's glossary of terminology which change with every year class. It helps keep
communication between PGCs and the School clear.
(ix) At the end of the meeting, please take the opportunity to thank the Year Teacher for the meeting
as you know how particularly busy he or she is. Also thank him / her for the dedicated work with your child(ren), and mention a couple of subjects where his / her particular attention and assistance made a difference
to your child(ren)'s grasp of a idea. Teaching can be a thankless, underappreciated, underpaid, job. As with every job, recognition goes a long way.
I hope the above list will help to start you off, or add to your
already chosen questions.
It would be useful for all
if you sent the Teacher a copy of your list of questions, so that you are all prepared on the same topics. Ask when you are setting up the meeting if a list would be helpful. Most teachers are happy to have
a mutually agreed basis on which to work before the meeting.
AS AN ASIDE
Please get a younger child started on practising composing his / her personal, handwritten
or drawn or 3D design, letter of thanks to his / her Year Teacher and Classroom Assistant, as soon as possible, as a few drafts may be required for written work - suiting the abilities and styles of the child. These
'thank you' letters / drawings / 3D artwork are good practise in composition. They shall be used in showing gratitude for help, or a present, or anything a child receives for birthdays from grandparents, for example, or during the course of
This is part of the Grace and Courtesy which should be part of every
child's life. They can be prepared for any School breaks, for particular holidays where gratitude is timely, or for the end of term / School Year.
Getting into the way early of sending 'thank you' notes of their own composition is good practise for a lifelong habit of thanking friends, family, and many others we meet in the course of study, work, and
family life. People really appreciate a note of thanks, as as one of my Aunts says, if she doesn't get one, that's the last of the presents!
Encourage your child to make the letter
/ drawing / 3D artifact reflective of his / her personality, and suggest adding references to work that he / she really enjoyed, and mention what subjects he / she feels were where she improved most.
Depending on the age of the child, drawings in the margins would be appropriate. Please ensure the child has checked all the spelling, punctuation, and grammar, at whatever level of skills he / she has reached in composition.
Find out from other PGCs what is the accepted norm when it comes to giving a present to
a Year Teacher. There may be a self-imposed rule for an upper end of expenditure. Some schools would find a bottle of wine acceptable, others may not approve of alcohol. It is best to know when and how much to spend.
However, small presents, carefully chosen to reflect what your child and you have learnt about the Teacher, as tokens of thanks for your child's Teacher's hard work, are not part of a competition to see who buys what.
I think most teachers have sufficient scented candles!
FOR FUTURE REFERENCE ...
I am sure you shall spend a great deal of time considering and / organising what would be the best childcare for your child(ren) during the next Summer Break. It is very difficult to find an affordable summer camp / school
/ group, which is relatively close to home, and which covers as many hours as possible, and which also chimes with your later in the day childcare service.
Some of the feedback you get from the Year Teacher will influence what type of Summer camp / school / group your child shall attend.
This is another very good reason to go for an early appointment with the Year Teacher to discuss your child's Learning Style and interests, and give you time to investigate suitable establishments. The good ones book out early.
It all involves a great deal of
juggling timetables and finances.
Very Best of Luck!
Iseult Catherine O'Brien
If you see any errors, typographical or factual, or if you disagree with any of my ideas, I should be very glad to hear from you. If you have any suggestions, they would be most
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