Parent Teacher Conferences - First Grade

Discussion in 'Elementary Education Archives' started by taurusmag, Oct 28, 2006.

  1. taurusmag

    taurusmag Rookie

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    Oct 28, 2006

    Hi everyone! I am extremely concerned about one of my little first graders, and I guess I just needed a place to vent if nothing else. I hope you don't mind.:love:

    I think parents generally underestimate the importance of the first grade year, but this is a little extreme. This student is an entire year behind the rest of her class in reading and social development. We use the Spalding Method to teach phonics. Students memorize phonograms, and there are 70 in this program. The child was at our school last year, and should know these phonograms because they were taught in Kindergarten. All of the other students know them, including the one who is new to our school. This child, however, does not. She does not seem to even have a clue as to what a letter should sound like at all, and therefore cannot decode any words on her own. When she reads, she attempts to memorize the entire story. She needs help and reassrance with every single word, while the others are now reading independently. For instance, she will point to the word "the" and say "hospital" because she knows the word "hospital" is in the story. Also, this child has her head in the clouds most of the time, and when she isn't, she is inventing an ailment in attempt to get out of class and go home. She probably asks 5-6 times a day.

    I have been explaining this to the parent from the first week of school, but we had our official conference yesterday. I explained the difficulties the child was having, as well as the importance of the first grade year for reading instruction. The parent explained that the child was reading at home, and nothing was wrong (basically she has been telling me this all year). I explained that I could not make an assessment based on what a parent tells me a child does at home, and the fact that she won't read at school undersores the maturity issue. She doesn't appear to be ready for first grade on many levels. I teach at a private school, and we do not have any programs to help children with learning disabilities, so I looked up information and told this parent exacly what to do and where to go. I recommended that she be tested for reading. She told me that she had already been to the pediatrician and had her tested for ADHD, which she did not have. Therefore, she felt that her child needed no further testing. I explained the differences between ADHD and reading disabilities, but she kept saying over and over again that the child did not have ADHD and needed no further testing. I also gave her the numbers of two tutors, which, at least she was open to trying. I did, however, have to explain to the parent that her daughter was an entire year behind. Although we will try many interventions to help her, she may not be able to progress two years in the time we are given. It may be my recommendation at the end of the year that she repeat first grade if nothing else works. Obviously, since she wasn't open to testing, this did not go ever well either. She informed me that her daughter did not have a learning disability and that she was not going to get "stuck" in first grade. She did not understand why I would make such a recommendation since she was doing well in other subjects and reading was the only issue. My explanation of having to read to do any other subject fell on deaf ears. She absolutely does not understand the importance of reading. I asked her if she had difficulties with reading last year as her teacher does not work at our school anymore. I almost fell out of my chair when I hear this reply. She said, well, yes of course she had problems. That's because sometimes we took her to school and sometimes we didn't. Can you imagine? I have since discovered that on days they did take her, she didn't get to school until 10:30 or 11:00, well past reading instruction. No wonder first grade is such a struggle for this poor baby. It costs about $5,000 per year to send your child to our school. Can you imagine paying all that money and just blowing it off? I just don't understand what parents are thinking sometimes. Now she has an appointment to speak with the principal about the mean and evil first grade teacher on Monday. We are required to do things sometimes that may not be in the best interests of students because the school board doesn't want to lose them or for enrollment to drop. That's why they did nothing about the absences and tardies last year for the kid. Oh, well. Hopefully they will back me up. I just want to do whatever I can to help the student. Thanks for reading, especially if you stuck it out this far! I know it is a book. I think I just needed to write it down somewhere as I am extremely frustrated.
     
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  3. HannahB2

    HannahB2 Companion

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    Oct 28, 2006

    Wow, that is kind of sad. The mom probably just doesn't want to face the facts that her daughter has a problem, even though it is pretty obvious it is. I'm so sorry you have to deal with this and maybe you could help her after school 1 or 2 days a week.
    Good Luck!
     
  4. keeley73

    keeley73 Rookie

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    Oct 28, 2006

    I would have pulled the child in to the conference and had her read an on level book that the rest of the children can read.
     
  5. singledad

    singledad New Member

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    Oct 30, 2006

    Same boat, opposite sides.

    Hey Taurusmag, I have been a single full-time father for the past six years. I admit that I will never be good at teaching, but I have always given it my best shot. I know that not all teachers care as much as you. You would not have posted unless you cared. My mother has taught Elementary, Secondary, and College, so I have been around teaching my whole life.

    When my son started pre-K, he seemed to be behind. I spent some money to put him in one the the better pre-K schools in the town I live in. After I decided to take a day off of work and observe without him or the teacher knowing I was there (The school had an observation room for each class). I observed that my son was getting in trouble more due to the other students telling the teacher that my son was being mean. In the same day, I observed five other children do similar mean things and the teacher did not reprimand the other five children. I had a conference with the head of the school and the teacher that day. Within weeks of the conference, my son was doing much better with color, letter, and number recognition. This was truly a matter of the teacher allowing the students to manipulate her decisions with respect to my son's punishments.

    When my son started Kindergarten, I found out that the teacher was a quite young teacher who literally received her certificate three months prior. I was apprehensive, but tried to remain positive. Within one month, the teacher put my son on a behavior plan. (Hey, wait a minute, this sounds like my son is a total tyrant!) I know that it sounds like that, but we must keep in mind that we are dealing with children from ages 4-6. After getting to know some of the other parents, I found out that 30% of the class was on a behavior plan. I believe that it was a simple case of a young teacher who did not have the patience REQUIRED of a kindergarten teacher. My son's progress was almost non-existent. At the end of the year, the teacher recommended that my son retake kindergarten. The teacher seemed to be more worried about the children's attitudes than their learning.

    In his last month of kindergarten, I took my son to Sylvan. I hope you have heard of Sylvan. They tested my son, and sure enough, they recommended that he start learning from them at pre-K level. My son started Sylvan in May of this year, he is now at the beginning of first grade level. The only issue with this is that he has been in first grade for three months now. He is still three months behind and Sylvan is extremely expensive.

    I am a guy. I was in the military. I can, at times, be impatient with my son. I admit to all of this. My mother also tries to help when she can. I just don't know what to do. I feel that my son's previous teachers could have done a better job. His current teacher has told me that my son is putting out great effort, yet he is still working on his kindergarten sight words. She sees improvement every time she tests him. She says he is one of the most helpful children she has. My son knows the Lord's Prayer by heart. I am frustrated as a single parent. If I didn't make the kind of money I make, my son would still be in kindergarten and might not be doing any better.

    He now has a teacher that cares. This is good, I just hope it is not too late to get him caught up.
     
  6. kinderkids

    kinderkids Virtuoso

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    Oct 30, 2006

    Not trying to cause an argument here, but I believe that is a horrible idea! I would NEVER pull out a book and ask a child to read it when you know they can't. That is just setting them up for failure, and it is NOT fair to compare the child to ALL of the other children. I know you want to prove to this mother that the child isn't "working up" to the norm, but I feel there are better ways to prove this rather then treating the child in such a manner. NEVER put a child on the spot like that!!! That is just humiliating!
    (sorry........not helping the original poster, but felt I needed to reply to keeley).
     
  7. LakeSophie

    LakeSophie Comrade

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    Oct 30, 2006

    I tested all of my students individually on the high frequency words we expected them to know by the time of conferences. Every child was tested individually on the words, and I gave the parents a matter of fact list of the words they read, and the words they said instead of the correct words. This was a great way of showing parents where their child was falling behind without embarrassing the child.

    It doesn't answer your original question, but it is an option. I teach at a private school too and know how that whole "don't push the issue they may take their child out of school!" thing goes. If Mom gets angry enough, maybe Mom will pull her child out (bad for the school) but mom will be told the same thing at a public school and perhaps then mom will learn that school is important. (Which would at least benefit the child).
     
  8. taurusmag

    taurusmag Rookie

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    Oct 31, 2006

    Singledad,

    You really sound like a dad who cares and is involved with your son's schooling. As a teacher, I can't even begin to tell you how important that is to his school success. I have seen kids beat seemingly insurmountable odds because the parent was involved enough to get them the help they need. I have heard of Sylvan. Kumon is another one that seems to have a good reputation. I don't usually recommend these programs to parents, as, like you said, they are very expensive. They cost as much as our tuition, and even though we are a private school, we are in a working class neighborhood. The public schools have to provide that service for free, so I give this parent the option first, and recommend other programs when parents ask about private help. I think that what I am in need of here, is a caring parent like you. They did not care enough to take her to school, or bother to help her learn at home last year. She had 48 absences, as well as tardies that were too high to count. She is also demonstrating this attitude this year, as the child already has 10 tardies, and numerous uniform violations. It is as if they just flat out refuse to work with the school.

    To others posting,
    Don't worry. I would never ever pull a child into a conference, even if I were giving nothing but positive news. However, I have had parents bring their children in and insist on having the conference with their child present. That is an awkward situation in which I alsways suggest that the child be removed. You would be surprised at how many protest my efforts. I had one last year that absolutely insisted her child be present, and then complained to my principal that the teacher conferenced in front of her child! Parents in private school can be very trying!

    Thanks for your posts!

    Taurus
     
  9. Dalrose

    Dalrose Rookie

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    Oct 31, 2006

    I don't think there was anything wrong with having her read a book the other students can. It would prove to the mother how bad she is. Yes, sometimes you need to compare them to the rest of the clas.. If the rest of the class is "getting it" and she isn't then there is something that needs to be done with her.
     
  10. kinderkids

    kinderkids Virtuoso

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    You don't use a child to prove a point to a parent! I totally disagree! That is humiliation, plain and simple. And to use the term, "how bad she is" ? That in itself is a horrible statement. I'm not arguing the point that something needs to be done, but that is not the way to do it in my opinion.
     
  11. Proud2BATeacher

    Proud2BATeacher Phenom

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    Oct 31, 2006

    Maybe you can encourage her mother to volunteer in your classroom. This way she could observe her child's performance in relation to similar aged peers. You may also get your students to record a story on a tape recorder. You could then have the parent listen to her child read as compared to other children. By having her listen to the tape you probably don't have to worry about confidentiality as the mother would not be able to tell who the other children reading are.
     
  12. luckyteacher

    luckyteacher Rookie

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    I can see why thinking that putting a child on the spot is questionable but there are some parents that just will not be able to understand the areas that their child is struggling in a lot without seeing it visually. I have invited a parent into my classroom this year to just come and observe her child. I too am a first grade teacher and this child still struggles with everyday routines. In New York kindergarten in not mandatory so I have 4 children with no K at all and they have internalized the basic routines of school more than she has. Yet her mother feel there is no problem. I wanted her to come in and observe so she can see just how far behind she is not just in basic skills but cognitively and maturity wise as well. This is not saying she cannot learn or is not smart, just that she need extra support. Sometimes if parents don't see and understand the seriousness of their child's difficulties they won't do anything about it.
     
  13. taurusmag

    taurusmag Rookie

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    Nov 1, 2006

    Well, I am planning to have her come observe for the entire reading period next week. Sometimes parents in denial don't show up. We'll see what happens. The parent has also hired a tutor to work with the child two times per week. I am also, of course, working with the child one on one several times a week, and also during recess twice a week. I hope she doesn't get burned out with all of this extra help. She already hates school as it is (as evidence from all the ailments and wanting to get out of class). I just want to help her and I don't know what else to do. I really think retention should be a last resort. I hate to be cynical, but I have only worked with one child this far behind who actually caught up with the rest of her class. This child loved school and was highly motivated. Typically, they struggle the whole year, wind up burned out by the end, and still a good half a year or more behind the others. I am really hoping for the best, though. At least my conference shook these folks up enough to get her some sort of help. That's my biggest concern. I just pray that there are no other reading issues present, and the parents don't allow her to get another year behind. I always say that it never hurts to test them. If anything, it just alleviates concerns, so no harm done.
     
  14. kinderkids

    kinderkids Virtuoso

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    You sound like such a caring teacher! Good luck with everything.:love:
     
  15. Crazy4Kids

    Crazy4Kids Rookie

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    Dear Taurusmag,
    I spent my first 3 years of teaching in a private school (I moved to public school 5 years ago.) It can be a double-edged sword in many ways. Parents can be very difficult when they are paying for their child's education. Here are my little nuggets of wisdom that I learned in private school.

    1. Document, document, document (c.y.a.). Especially when they make appointments to talk about things they are upset about. (You will be at that meeting, right?)(Try to catch your principal before this meeting and go over what happened in your conference. Ask them to support you. Write down what you said (as close to word for word as possible) and what points were covered. Keep assessments and copies of student work.

    2. Be extremely careful about diagnosing disabilities. In the state of California, a teacher can be held liable in a court of law, along with the principal, for such diagnosisses. I am not sure if it would be under federal or state laws that this applies.

    3. (I am sure you have done this already) Create an assessment based on your 70 phonemes and find out which ones she already knows. Send home the list of the ones that she needs to know and ask them to practice with her. Pull her into a small group and review basic phonics (she can't be the only one who would benefit from this type of review). Administer a BPST (Basic Phonics Skills Test- it asks student to identify letter sounds, digraphs, blending skills, etc.)

    4. Ask your principal to sit in on your next conference with this parent to avoid any possible problems (misconstruing/exaggeration/etc)

    This parent is lucky to have you for her daughter's teacher, even if she doesn't realize it!

    *A side note: Celebrate what she can do in reading. It might help her self esteem and alleviate the avoidance problems (fake illness).
    Find out what she is good at doing (math, science,etc) and ask her to help someone else who might be having problems with something. Peer tutoring is a great way for some kids to learn because they are getting it at their level from a very non-threatening source (their peers)! It also helps their self esteem!
     

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