As I walk the halls of elementary schools, I see signs of Thanksgiving — turkey paintings, gourds on display. It's hard to believe the holidays are around the corner.
But before we take a break, let's check in on how your child is doing in school.
That's right, it's parent-teacher conference week at our elementary and kindergarten through eighth-grade schools. As you know, parents are crucial partners to us educators. We welcome and encourage involvement at every level possible. That can mean everything from making sure your child gets to school on time to serving on a districtwide advisory committee.
One of the important ways you can support children in school is to keep an open dialogue with their teachers. These conferences are a chance to sit down with your child's teacher to talk about your child's progress in school and to get your questions answered. If your child is struggling in a particular area, the teacher will talk with you about what is planned at school to help her improve and how you might be able to help at home.
Below are some questions you can use when talking to your child's teacher. They will help you to better understand what is being taught in the classroom, how well your child is doing and what you can do at home to help your child.
What is my child expected to learn this year, and how is he or she progressing?
Ask about what is being studied in class. This is also a good time for the teacher to show you examples of class projects and assignments. How will I know my student is successful? Your child's teacher can share the results of their Common Learning Assessments and the Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment, which allows teachers to choose texts that are just right for students and plan instruction.
What are my child's academic strengths? Find out what your child's strengths are. It's important to reinforce and build on these with your child. Maybe you'll learn about ways your child is excelling in something you didn't even know about. Use this time to tell the teacher what you see as strengths in your child.
In which area does my child need improvement? This question is crucial. Ask the teacher what support your child is receiving in the classroom to improve in whatever area necessary. But also ask what you can do at home to help reinforce what is being taught at school.
Make sure you talk with your child after the meeting. Start with the positive things, and then discuss areas where improvements can be made and what everyone is going to do next to help your child thrive.
In our busy lives, we sometimes have precious little time to discuss our child's progress in school with one important expert in this area — your child's teacher. If you haven't made time for it, please do — you would be surprised how much you can learn in just one parent-teacher conference. These conferences are a necessary part of being involved in your child's education, and, they are one more way to send the message to your child that his or her education is important.
Richard A. Carranza is the superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.