My 4 year old daughter is a preschooler at a co-op preschool. That means my husband and I contribute to the classroom through volunteering, parent education, and shared responsibility of the class. If the teachers were measured on TPEP (Teacher/Principal Evaluation Program), they would rank distinguished in engaging families in the instructional programs. (If you want to learn more about Co-Op Preschools look here and here. )
Our annual parent teacher conference was important because we wanted to decide, with the help of the teachers, if our daughter was ready for Kindergarten. As an educator, I know how important this decision is.
This year, as part of my Focused TPEP Evaluation, I chose Criterion 7: Communicating and collaborating with parents and the school community. The Danielson Framework lists these qualities for a teacher who is proficient when communicating with families:
Teacher communicates frequently with families about the instructional program and conveys information about individual student progress.
Teacher makes some attempts to engage families in the instructional program.
Information to families is conveyed in a culturally appropriate manner.
However, I’m turning the table. Now I’m the parent and interested in how the teachers communicate with me about individual student progress.
Here how my daughter’s fabulous teachers exceeded proficiency and are distinguished in communicating with families.
- The teachers listed my daughter’s 3 specific strengths. This was a perfect way to start a conference and put us at ease. Who doesn’t love to hear wonderful things about their child?
- They listed 3 specific areas needing growth. This was no surprise to us. We know she grabs a pencil like she’s strangling the life from it. Limiting the list to 3 was less overwhelming. We can only tackle so much.
- Besides areas of growth, the teachers suggested things to work on at home to push our daughter forward. Tying her own shoes (thank you world of Velcro), memorizing her home address, and continuing to develop her gross motor skills were solid, specific tasks we can work on at home.
- The most exciting part of the conference for me was sharing the assessments and my daughter’s performance. They showed me which letters and sounds she knows. The showed us the sheet where she was asked to count items and color shapes. I could see at a quick glance what was assessed and how my daughter fared (1f: Designing Student Assessments, 3d: Using Assessment in Instruction, 4b: Maintaining Accurate Records). You’d better believe THIS Reading Specialist is going to work on those 5 letter names she doesn’t know! (Ok. I have to brag again. Do you see how the teacher wrote ‘good listening to follow directions’?! Warms this teacher’s heart. I’m more proud of that than the shapes she knows.)
- The teachers showed their affection and regard for our daughter. Everyone wants their child to be loved by their teacher. If they don’t think she’s the best thing since sliced bread, they acted convincingly. Each teacher shared an anecdote highlighting our daughter’s brilliance and adorableness. I’m in education, and the love these women showed towards my daughter wins me over every time.
- A parent conference can sometimes feel like a pediatric appointment. So much jargon! Potential Stress! Too much to remember! Our daughter’s teachers sent home ALL the materials and assessments they shared. I knew that if I wanted to review which shapes my daughter knows, I need to look at these sheets. If I wanted to take notes, I could write on the forms. I didn’t have to keep all their information in my little brain.
- The teachers offered to answer any questions. This is where we could talk about our concerns about her starting kindergarten. We could discuss how much growth she might make in the next 7 months and what we could do to prepare her. After the laughter, information, and cute stories, I felt at ease to ask about our concerns.
If you’re reading this, you may not be a preschool teacher. But any teacher can implement these components of communicating with families to ensure a strong school-family bond.