Shifting Parents’ Thinking

In elementary school in Orange County, we give students a grade from 1-4 on progress reports and report cards.

report-card

I personally do not care for this scale because of how subjective it can be. I always have parents who say “My student had all 4’s last year, why do they have 3’s now?” This is just one of the difficult conversations I have at parent teacher conferences after the first progress report goes home each year.

I just finished parent teacher conferences for the first nine weeks. I feel like over the years, I always have the same conversations with my parents at these conferences. “They teach things much differently than they did when I was in school.” “I can’t help my child because I don’t know how you taught it in school.”

I always try to encourage my families to teach their children different methods at home and that it can be helpful to understand the same concept from multiple perspectives. I also try to encourage my Latino families to read in Spanish to their children at home, because they often express that they can’t help with homework when it is in English. However, I feel like families are always hesitant to teach their children different ways than they are learning at school.

Recently, I had the same conversation with two parents who were concerned about their child’s writing grade on his progress report. Both parents said, “I have tried to work with ______ on his handwriting, but I know it is still sloppy.” I had to explain that he does not have a 2 in writing because of his handwriting but because the content of his writing. They seemed more concerned about their child’s penmanship than the quality of writing their student can produce.

I also always have parents complain that students bring library books home that are not on their level. I try putting my explanation for this in my newsletter at the beginning of the school year.

I explain to parents that their books in bag are books on their level. Students get to choose these books, but they must be on their level so they don’t always get the books they want. For example, Harry Potter, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Goosebumps, and Bad Kitty books are popular books from my classroom library, but they are all at a pretty high level. Few students are allowed to get these for their books in a bag. Since I restrict what books students can get for those books, I allow them free choice for library books. This allows them to check out these popular books and read them in their free time. At recent conferences, I had a couple parents ask if I could try to encourage their child to check out books on their level because they can’t read the books they check out. Another parent said, “She keeps coming home with these comic books, and I tell her she needs to be reading real stories.” I told her that graphic novels are a great way to engage students and told her about my work at UNC with graphic novels. I try to explain that I don’t try to discourage choices if they are excited about what they are reading. Students get plenty of practice with text on their level, and it is okay if they are reading books that are too difficult for fun and enjoyment.

How do you shift parents’ thinking about schooling? What conversations do you find difficult?

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3 thoughts on “Shifting Parents’ Thinking

  1. leighahall October 31, 2016 / 11:55 am

    I don’t totally understand the difference, but I think (just FYI) that comic books and graphic novels are different genres. I know they are. I’m just not able to articulate that difference. Regardless, both are appropriate genres for kids to read. And both can be very complex – which you already know. I hate that kids get told comic books are somehow lesser forms of reading. Maybe talk to your parents about how you want to encourage life long readers and an enjoyment of reading. If they can get behind that, then maybe they can be ok with it.

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  2. susanedu450 November 1, 2016 / 8:36 pm

    I have to say kudos on encouraging parents to realize that when children get or pick out books that interested them. it helps build that foundation that one needs to become a life long reader. My mom did this for us as children allow us to pick out books that interested us and I still enjoy reading the books that interested me. I have done the same with my children and they love to read as well. So keep up the good work of encouraging parents to find what interests their child has in reading books as it will foster a love of reading for them.

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  3. dezvillalobos November 2, 2016 / 7:02 am

    Unfortunately, I do not have an answer to your question because I am not in the field yet, but this is a question that I have thought of before so I have some thoughts; it will also be nice to check in and see what thoughts other people have. As far as my ideas on the subject, I think that you kind of hit the nail on the head about not limiting the choice of library books because if a student picks a book then they must be excited about it. We want students to be able to pursue their own interests in education and I think that is a message that would be effective if given to the parents.

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