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H. Parents and Community

: What are some ways you would communicate with parents about students' progress?

A: I know from my earlier research that many teachers at West Wind Elementary School have their own classroom Web pages. I would want to develop my own Web page that would be updated weekly and would provide parents with regular information about stories to be read, books to be discussed, and specific ways they could encourage reading at home. I would also want to plan a regular sequence of phone calls to parents to let them know of the successes their children were having in school. I would want to celebrate those successes with parents on a regular and systematic basis. I would also like to visit many parents in their homes or in the community to informally or formally discuss strategies and techniques that would support the learning taking place in school.

If you will be teaching at the elementary or middle school level, you can certainly anticipate this question. While the topic may not have been covered in your pre- service training, it is one critical to your success as a classroom teacher. Be sure to have three specific ideas on how you would address parent participation and how you would make it part of your regular classroom routine.

: Why is it important to communicate with parents?

A: I learned in one of my methods courses that as much as 70 percent of a child's intellectual development takes place at home. Therefore, it is critical for teachers and parents to work together, to establish a positive partnership that can support and enhance a child's academic growth—no matter what the age, the subject, or the grade. I was fortunate to be able to work with my cooperating teacher to establish an action plan for parent involvement based on school/home newsletters, a regularly updated Web page, a series of regular e-mails and phone calls, home visits, and structured meetings at school. When parents were provided with authentic opportunities to participate in the affairs of the classroom, students' achievement levels showed remarkable gains. It was a most valuable lesson.

As I said, if you are planning to teach at the elementary or middle school level, you will undoubtedly be asked one or more questions about parent involvement. This is a golden opportunity for you to describe your overall classroom plan for actively engaging parents in the scholastic lives of your students. Show that you have a plan, not just a philosophy. Be prepared to talk about some of the parental-outreach efforts you practiced during student teaching.

: Describe how you would prepare for a parent-teacher conference.

A: First, I would send a personal letter home to each parent to confirm the day, time, and place of the conference. Then I would gather the records of each student—portfolios, work samples, writing samples, and homework papers. I would review my notes on each student's behavior, academic progress, and interactions with peers. I would clarify ahead of time who, exactly, would be attending each conference—is it the child's biological parents, a relative, a guardian, a grandparent, or a foster parent? If necessary, I would make arrangements for an interpreter for non-English-speaking parents. I would invite parents to bring in a list of questions, issues, or concerns. Lastly, I would make sure the conference was not conducted from behind my desk, but rather side-by-side at a table, so as to enhance conversation and a level of comfort.

Your response should demonstrate that you've given serious thought to this annual or semi-annual event (at almost every elementary, middle, or high school). Show that you are aware of the basic elements of a good parent-teacher conference and what you can do to inform parents and make them comfortable during the conference. On the surface, this may seem like a minor question, but it can further solidify your ability to plan ahead, rather than trying do things "on the fly."

 
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