A friend of mine recently attended the parent/teacher conference for his eighteen-month-old son. Prior to the meeting, he questioned the importance of attending a conference for a child so young. What would the teachers possibly have to say about his son, he asked? After attending the conference, he had an answer: a lot!
At The International Preschools, parent/teacher conferences are held twice a year: once in the fall and once in the spring. Parents have the opportunity to speak directly with their child’s teachers about the child’s school experience. Whether your child is two-years-old and just starting school, or five-years-old and heading to kindergarten next year (or beyond), there is important information to be learned at every level. Here are some of the many topics you can expect to (or ask to) hear about at your child’s conference:
- Social/Emotional Skills: A child’s ability to interact with his/her peers and teachers is a skill that spills over into all aspects of learning and growth. Children learn how to ask for (and obtain) what they need or want, initiate play, and navigate through daily routines. Self-confidence, taking on different roles in play, and regulating emotions when frustrated are also part of this skill area. You might learn whether your child has a friend that he/she gravitates towards. Teachers can give you suggestions as to who might be a good play date choice for your child as well. Play dates are a wonderful way for children to build friendships with their peers; it creates a “bridge” between school and home, and likely will lead to interactions within the classroom.
- Cognitive Skills: Your child’s teachers, particularly in the 3s, Pre-K, and Junior K classrooms, will speak about his/her emergent literacy, writing, and math skills (i.e. an interest in sorting items, ability to write his/her name, counting with correspondence). A child’s skills are measured in two ways: (1) against standard milestones and (2) in relation to his/her abilities from when he/she first entered the classroom. Teachers (and parents) want to see growth from point A to point B; if a child enters the classroom in September and does not recognize his/her name in print, but is able to in November, that is something to be proud of!
- Language Development: A child’s ability to follow directions, listen to and retell stories read aloud, remember past events, and make connections between school and home are all part of your child’s language development.
- Group Activity Interactions: You might hear about your child’s interest level with regard to small and large group activities. Does your child enjoy whole group story time, or does he/she prefer working one-on-one or in a small group at Table Time? Attention span and ability to work independently are also observed and relayed during conferences.
- Areas of Strength/Interest: Is your child a master at puzzles? Does he/she have an innate ability to cheer up their friends when they are upset? You will learn all about your child’s strengths and interests at this time as well. Teachers can suggest ways to build upon these interests and strengths outside of school (i.e. a child who shows an interest in science might enjoy attending an after school science program).
- Goals: This may be the most important point of all to be learned at your conference. Teachers create a set of goals for your child to strive to achieve throughout the year. It might be to increase his/her gross motor skills, or to offer information more frequently at circle time. Goals are individualized to the needs of each child; the attainment of those goals are assessed throughout the school year.
Conferences are a wonderful time to meet with your child’s entire teaching team. Each teacher in the classroom, whether he/she is a head teacher, associate teacher, or assistant teacher, has valuable insights regarding your child’s experiences at school and can give you a more complete picture of his/her day. Don’t be afraid to take notes, ask questions, and if need be, follow-up for a future meeting or check-in via email or telephone call. Parents know their children best; your input, concerns, and interest in your child’s preschool experience is valued and appreciated by his/her teachers.
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