Whether you are pleasantly surprised or very disappointed with the first report card, you'll want to have a discussion about the results, both with your child and with the teacher. The report card postmortem is part of a larger support strategy that makes you an active participant in your child's education.
Make the most out of your report card chat. Here are some guidelines to ensure that it goes as smoothly as possible, especially if you are in the disappointed-parent category.
· Sit down together. Don't talk about the report card in the garage while you child is lacing up his rollerblades.
· Remove distractions and focus on each other — TV off, no Game Boy or iPod!
· Make a statement of intent. Tell your child up front that you need to have a talk about the report card.
· Start by saying something positive. You can get off on the right foot by highlighting something positive about the report card, no matter how trivial.
· Review learning strengths. Say something like, "You are still doing great in math, which is awesome."
· Recognize the struggle (1). Listen to your child, and include his or her thoughts, comments, and worries in the discussion.
· Recognize the struggle (2). Say something like, "I see that you're still having trouble with spelling."
· Listen to the complaints. Children who have the most issues are usually the most vocal.
· End with optimism. Make a comment like this: "There's still plenty of time for improvement, and we'll work together to make the necessary changes."
· End with a plan. Identify the following before you leave the table: your role in helping with school, your child's role, and what the next steps are.
· You've got your plan of action identified: Now do it!
After the important report card discussion comes the parent-teacher conference. It's a key step in the partnership between you, your child, and your child's education.
Often, it can give you insights into your child's behaviors and weaknesses — things that become evident when he or she is away from home and family members. Here are some tips on how to make the most of the parent-teacher interview:
· Be prepared. Bring your child's report card with you, and know all the details. If relevant, bring last year's report cards as well. If your child has a grade that doesn't seem in sync with test marks or project scores, then bring an assignment along as well.
· Ask your child for insights. "What do you think your teacher will say about you?" is a question that might eliminate any potential surprises. After all, your child spends several hours a day with his teacher.
· Write a list of questions to ask. There is only one teacher and many parents, so your time with the teacher is limited. If you run out of time, you can leave the list with the teacher, or save it to refer to next time.
· Take notes.
· Don't be confrontational. A harmonious atmosphere in the spirit of partnership in your child's education isn't aided by tension.
· Leave on a high note. Say, "Thanks for taking the time to talk with me!"
· What is the key area that [Tom] is strong in?
· Where does [Sarah] need to improve?
· What can we do to help [Andrew] achieve improvement?
· As [Mary's] teacher, what can you do to initiate improvement?