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Easing Parent Anxiety

Last year, as our state test approached, my parents' level of anxiety increased tremendously. The closer the date came, the more emails and phone calls I received. The parents were concerned. They were worried, and some of my 8th grade parents were panicking. (In Texas, 5th and 8th graders have to pass their math and reading tests to move to the next grade level.)

The parents passed their anxiety onto their students, who were already filled with worry.

This year, I decided to take a more proactive approach to easing my parents' anxiety. A couple of days ago, I hosted a parent night. The intentions of this night were to create an open forum for discussion, so that their questions could be answered and their concerns could be heard. I arranged my seats in a half-circle to create an atmosphere of comfort and to promote discussion.

As parents came in, I told them specifically how much I enjoy their child. I wanted the parents to see how much I value their child.

I started the night by discussing their student's assessment report. These are reports I create twice a year, based on the various assessments I take. Educators tend to throw data, scores, and vocabulary that is too unfamiliar to parents for them to understand them in any meaningful way. These reports are no different. Throwing data at parents is a disservice and thoroughly disrupts the school-family connection.

I took the parents through each piece of data, explaining each different score. I get really excited about data, but I understand not everyone shares my enthusiasm. I had planned to give just a brief overview, but the parents pleasantly surprised me with all their questions. They really wanted to know what this data meant!

We talked about Tiers....

And Grade Equivalents....

We broke apart the bell curve....

And we talked about mastery of skills....

They had a lot of questions, and I was so impressed with their commitment to their children!

We moved on to the state assessment, and these parents were worried! They needed real answers.  We talked about my expectations, how I was preparing them, what their student needed to do, and how they could help.

We talked about their child's feelings - about what it is like to try your hardest and fail. About how hard it is to try again.About feelings of defeat. And embarrassment. And failure.

The important thing to understand about this night was that it was all about heart. I wanted the parents to understand that I use this data, these numbers, to get us to our goal. This goal is never and will never be: to pass a state test. Passing the test is just a means to an end.

My students are more than numbers.
They are not scores.
They are not labels.

They are children.
With heart and conviction.
With fears.
With great senses of humor.
 They are human


Digitally Illiterate Parents I realized that many of our parents do not have the technology literacy for this type of communication. This made me wonder: What responsibility do we have in educating our families about technology?

What If We Could Choose Our Schools Like We Do Our Restaurants? What if we stopped trying to find the best, most-researched, proven-effective, one-size-fits-all program for education?

Intervention, Remediation, Special Education...What is the Difference? Intervention is not reteaching or special education. It is the intentional instruction of targeted skills. This is for the student who is multiple grade-levels below. 

Learning Gaps One of the most common frustrations heard from secondary math teachers: HE SHOULD ALREADY KNOW THIS! HOW CAN I TEACH HIM MATH IF HE DOESN'T KNOW HIS BASIC SKILLS?!?!

Why Do So Many Students Have Math Learning Gaps? The blame for these gaps tends to get placed in two ways: 1. Elementary teachers are incompetent in math, and, because of this, they have not adequately prepared their students for higher math.

Remediation vs. Intervention (In Practical Terms) In a previous post, I discussed how remediation and intervention are different. The difference between these two concepts is so great and so important that I feel it necessary to explain why this difference matters.