In any professional interaction, the overall goal of both the parents and the teacher is the well being of the student. Because of this, it is baffling to me that most parent-teacher conferences do not include the student or set clear norms for how the team intends to educate the child both in school and at home. I propose that before the start of the new school year parents and teachers meet and make an individual list of norms and goals they want to follow to ensure the best school year possible for the child. The list would highlight several themes based on the family and the teacher but include:
- The specific educational goals for the year
- The child's and parent's specific goals for around the house
- Established norms for the relationship between the teacher and the parents
By clearly establishing norms based on the goals for the year, and the way both the teacher and the parent's want to be treated and addressed, parents and teachers can have more open, honest and frequent discussions around the student's learning both at home and in school. Including a student in the discussion can be extremely valuable not only to let the child know what they need to work on but to focus the conversation and help build the child's sense of self-advocacy by allowing them to talk. As a student myself I remember my parents coming home from conferences and wondering what the were secrets they talked about me. Once the norms and goals for the year are carefully set, it is very important for the parents and teachers to follow up on them with other meetings to reassess the needs of the child's team. The more open and focused communication we allow and encourage, the stronger the student's team becomes and the further their learning can go.