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Parent-teacher conferences form partnerships

Communication is key

Catherine Wilde/contributing photographer

Brianna Head, left, discusses her twins’ performance with McGraw third-grade teacher Jessica Latta during a parent-teacher conference Thursday. The conferences have proven to be a valuable way of building cooperation between parents and teachers.

Brianna Head’s twin third-graders drove toy trucks back and forth on the floor of Jessica Latta’s classroom, while Latta and Head discussed their homework habits, academic strengths and character traits Thursday at a parent teacher conference at McGraw Elementary School.

It’s just a 15-minute meeting, but the conferences, in McGraw and other schools this time of year, are crucial to communication between parents and teachers, Latta said.

“A positive, open, honest relationship, is what it boils down to,” Latta said. “Sharing concerns they have as a parent and (we have) as a teacher is absolutely vital to academic success.”

Problems at home may affect how a student learns and acts in the classroom, she said. Principal Susan Prince said kids aren’t always the most accurate messengers home about the classroom, too.

Head walked out of the meeting with Latta and math teacher Tracey O’Donnell with a plan to use flash cards to help Logan and Karissa Moffitt work on three-digit math problems and a better understanding of how education has changed since she was a third-grader.

“I will definitely be working with their weaknesses,” Head said.

But the curriculum has changed so much, Latta said. Students and teachers alike are grappling with Common Core standards. Now with the revamped curriculum, known as Next Generation standards, more grappling is to come.

Latta favors flexible work spaces, with stools, ball seats, moving chairs and a carpet for kids to sit on, rather than desks and chairs. It helps students experiment with different positions to see what helps them focus.

O’Donnell likes “brain breaks” so kids can move around.

The conferences are a good time to clarify things, as students may sometimes not give the full picture of what’s going on at school, McGraw Elementary School Principal Susan Prince said.

For example, if a child says a teacher never gave them a chance to make corrections on their homework, a teacher could have their planner out and point to the date they told students to have corrections completed by, Prince said.

“So it’s a great time to clear up any misunderstandings like that,” she said. “We want to know how best to help our children, and that’s from both a parent side and an educator side. We all need to be in this together and it’s really important to have that open communication with each other.”

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