Conversations about parent-teacher interviews

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It wasn’t too far into summer when I started to catch blog posts in my Twitter feed about parent-teacher interviews.  Well at least educators were discussing the merits of… not sure many parents were yet. :)

I have posted on the topics of parent engagement and report cards on this blog, but not necessarily about parent-teacher interviews specifically.  I thought I would attempt a post on the topic to pull a few threads and ideas together.

In late July, Doug Peterson posted a personal story and reflection about parent-teacher interviews in his “Whatever happened to…” series.  He offered some good questions for educators that are worthy of repeating now that “the season” of interviews is well underway.

He states in the post,

Parent/Teacher interviews are still the lifeblood of communication and I do hope that Faculties of Education are not failing their students like mine did.  But, is there a more effective way of communicating with home?”

Doug’s curiosity/questions:

  • did you ever get good advice before your first parent/teacher interview?  Have you mastered them now?
  • do you use report cards and attachments as communication tools?
  • do you have a class blog/website and use it effectively?  How?
  • does social media fit into your communication plans?  Is it effective?
  • do you worry about the privacy of student/parent information in any of these formats?
  • where would you be without computers to facilitate this?
  • is a physical meeting a thing of the past?  Couldn’t you just do a hangout or Skype instead?

Please read his full post and I am sure he would welcome comments still.

Also in the summer, my friend Nancy aka @withequalstep shared this post with me (and probably on Twitter): Reporting to Support by Janet Goodall.  It is also a worthy read to challenge ideas about traditional parent-teacher interviews and reporting on learning.  The idea of shifting reporting to supporting is interesting.  The article has some good suggestions and insights.  I was left wondering about the delicate balance that K – 12 teachers must face.  How do they communicate (be “accountable”, as much as I don’t like that word) what may be expected about how they are teaching to support learning, and then also determine what is appropriate to suggest to parents to support learning at home, especially during a short “interview”?  Perhaps that comes clearer over time and through relationships and partnerships, as the post mentions:

What if, rather than being focused on the teachers, the event was focused around a partnership between parents and the teachers to support learning?”

Another August post that I read and appreciated was by Rusal Alrubail.  She wrote, as her title suggests, How To Create a Culturally Responsive Classroom for Refugee & Migrant Students.  I also took note of some good suggestions for connecting with immigrant and refugee parents, including:

Another piece of advice is to connect with parents on a regular basis, whether that may be through messaging, letters, phone calls or face to face, to update them on their child’s progress. Many immigrants and refugee parents might not feel comfortable asking about their child’s progress as they don’t want to take the teacher’s time. In some cultures, asking about the child may seem like an act to undermine the teacher’s authority. So it’s important to let them know you’re available if they have any questions or concerns.”

With all this reading, it prompted me to wonder what I learned about communicating with parents while taking my B. Ed program (over 20 years ago).  (I posted previously about the research that Tracy Bachellier conducted to look more closely at current programs in Ontario’s Faculties of Education.)  Since our family moved houses recently, I found and tossed all kinds of stored paper and files.  I did find a few good notes and handouts specific to preparing for parent-teacher interviews and being sensitive to parent needs.  This was before much technology of course, but I was still rather impressed with the tips that I had noted during a lecture.  Interestingly, I found this quote copied down in my notes:

Teachers in consultation with parents must strive to know each child as soon and as thoroughly as possible in order to provide learning opportunities which will help their child.” (Min. of College and Universities, 1979-80).

We still may not have all the answers or best approaches, but it is clear to me that the conversations about parent-teacher interviews carry on through the years and over the summers!

Poetry, man.

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I thought the news today about Bob Dylan being a winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature was pretty cool.  I appreciate the poetry in his song lyrics, but I read that some didn’t agree with this recognition.  I came to know his music and songs through my following of Melanie’s music career.  I often think of her music and lyrics as poetry, so if she also covered Dylan, than it must be poetry… :)

Blowin’ in the Wind was probably one of the first five songs that I learned on guitar, but my favourite Dylan song is Mr. Tambourine Man.  I heard and fell in love with Melanie’s version of it first, of course.  I loved singing along to those lyrics.  I had to listen to both today:


Check out this live performance of Bob Dylan in 1964:


Who do you consider to be the poetic songwriters of today, or who might be ahead? I have been trying to think who else comes close to Bob Dylan (and Melanie :)).

Pushing Back (together)


I noticed “The Professional Pushes Back” post on Seth’s Blog being shared on Twitter, but I didn’t get around to reading it until I read Doug Peterson’s post and expansion on it to include teachers and invite further thoughts.  Doug asked:

  • Do you consider yourself a professional?
  • Give an example of how you pushed back in the manner that is used in the original post

Soon after, I read Aviva Dunsiger’s post in response to Doug’s post.  She took on the challenge to post about ways that she has pushed back as a teacher.  She ends her post inviting and questioning how other members of the school community push back,

If pushing back means helping children more, I’m happy to push back. What about you? Educators, administrators, and parents, how do you “push back?”

Whether a professional or not, I am sure it isn’t an easy task to push back within a school system.  Pushing back can be met with disagreement and conflict.  I am sure I have a blog post or two where I have stated the worth of collaborating with parents to help create and support change.  The conversations aren’t always easy, but parents might be able to push back in ways that an educator might not be able to — or together they can make even more of an impact.  (Some related points in this UK article here)  I think it might be best to have a supportive team of mixed roles and voices when it comes to pushing back in education.  Aviva extended the conversation to administrators and parents.  I noticed that trustees weren’t mentioned, but I think they could be a part of push back efforts too.  It has always been my hope that education stakeholders could work/push back together, but maybe individual efforts and leadership are still really needed and important.  Do these individuals get the support they need?





This has been a year of moving stuff — new house, adult children moving back and forth and away again… needless to say, I moved away from social media a fair bit in the process.  I just checked in on this blog and noticed that I had missed my “5 years of blogging congratulations” a few days ago.  I see I still have some followers and stats tell me that some of my past posts are still being read.  So while I am no longer posting much, I have been pondering what to do with this blog.  Should I ‘move’ to something else?  Get a new “place” for different stories?  Use my blog or social media differently?  Facebook’s algorithms and engagement “tricks” can annoy me.  Twitter seems less personally engaging and interactive now.  Many people who I have followed for some time don’t tweet and/or blog much anymore.  I miss their voices and messages, but I can’t expect them to post for my benefit.  Have I let it become all about the news and trending topics, or is this now the general experience of social media?  I have chosen to be less “active” with social media and blogging, but will I continue to enjoy a more passive participation?  “SheilaSpeaking” doesn’t quite fit now :)  I could move to something like Instagram, but then something would have to go…

I have two posts in draft on this blog, so I might get to publishing them ahead.  There is one thing — this blog can still feel like more my own space considering all the promotions and advertising on other social media platforms (well, there are those ads that show up at the bottom of my posts via wordpress…).  I still like (need?) to write and place my thoughts somewhere.  Maybe a private journal would serve me well, once again.  I wouldn’t have to complain or reflect about social media use and impact there🙂

See how it goes… but feel free to unfollow this somewhat abandoned blog.  My post topics may be less about education ahead as well.


SheilaSpeakingLess :)

Pass the jam

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A somewhat random music-related post this time…

Have you seen the Nostalgia Machine? Doug Peterson posted about it recently and I finally tried it out.  It includes music from 1960 to 2013 and it will take you a menu for your chosen year with links to music videos on youtube. Very cool.  It is nice to have another way to round up some good tunes.  The “machine” encourages you to get your childhood jam on, but I can enjoy and get curious about music from pre-2000 just as much as post-2000🙂

I always have my on-going favourites, from the past and the present.  I like that I experienced the music interests of my 3 older siblings when I was younger.  There was always a good mix of music in our home. And now my daughters share their music with me, “I think you will like this one, Mom…”  They will usually send their recommendation via a youtube link.  I often get lost down the rabbit hole after that.  When I get curious about a song, I usually want to find a video of it performed live. If you follow me on Twitter, you may already know this from my random live music sharing.

I recently went down the ’70s rabbit hole on youtube.  I was checking out some tunes by Lobo (Kent LaVoie) — not even sure how I got there as I wasn’t really a big fan, but there were a few pleasant and simple tunes of the past!  One music video included his version of Reason to Believe and I thought it sounded familiar…  Eventually I figured it out:  I was more familiar with Rod Stewart’s version. And now the curiosity starts.  It often goes something like this for me:

“Then who wrote that one?”.  Youtube suggestions list many others singing that one: Neil Young, Johnny Cash, The Carpenters, etc.  A Google search confirms: Tim Hardin wrote it.

Who is Tim Hardin?” More searching… oh, he sang at Woodstock.  He also died young.

“So, what did he sing at Woodstock?” Ok, I see: If I were a carpenter.  “Oh.. look how many different singers continued to sing that one….” and now I am in the ’60s… and then in the ’80s…

Back to the Nostalgia Machine — what a handy resource for the home and school.  A few posts later, Doug also shared this option to explore more music around the world.

Keep passing the (preserved) jam… always something new to learn through music!

School Councils: Sustained

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A recent Canadian Education Association (CEA) article (spring 2016; Education Canada), written by Jim Brandon, was an interesting read and examination of school governance in Canada. It discussed district leadership in strengthening governance at the different levels of education — school, school board and provincial.

I was pleased to see that it included an update on school councils in regards to school level governance.  Here is one section (but please do read the entire article):

Studies and annual provincial surveys indicate a general state of comfort with and appreciation of school councils’ involvement in schools and have put to rest past concerns that that school councils would evolve into de facto school boards. To the credit of provincial governments in Alberta and Ontario, a more evidence-based policy course has been steered since the introduction of school councils in the 1990s. In contrast to policy directions in places like New Zealand and England, school councils in Canada have not wavered from the path of serving schools and districts as collective associations who work together to effectively support student learning.”

I am no longer directly involved in Ontario’s school councils, but I was for many years. I became somewhat familiar with situations and structures in some other Canadian provinces through reading and conversations within my parent advocate network in the past.

It was reassuring to read that “concerns have been put to rest about school councils becoming de facto school boards.”  Should that have ever been a concern?  Should it have taken over 15 years? I think it was always the intent of the Ministry to ensure that school councils would be democratic and advisory. They were first mandated in 1997, but it wasn’t until 2000 that Regulation 612/00 provided clear guidelines for their role at the school and board level. This also led to changes to Reg. 298 (Duties of Principals) in regards to school councils.  I would think that the guidelines were to ensure fair and meaningful parent participation in schools, but the legislation may have been threatening at the same time. I am not sure — I was not involved with parents groups during that time of introduction.

I have also sensed an increased “comfort with and appreciation of school councils” at the school level, but I suspect there is still some variance. I have written and reflected before about their governance role here.

The author states that Canadian school councils maintained a focus on student learning. I had a discussion with a few parents on Twitter about this aspect, but it might be difficult to know the current reality, even with surveys and research. Each province is so different and it can seem that what is wanted from a school council varies as well. I am not sure what the measure of success should be, or who should determine that — the school community, the school board, or the province? All?

What will the next 15 years look like for school councils? Ontario’s history of school councils seems relatively short when compared to The Ontario Federation of Home and Schools (OFHSA). They are currently celebrating 100 years of establishment. Who will accurately summarize school council history and successes in Ontario over 100 years? Will it be possible? Will it matter?

A consistent question about parent involvement


There may not be as many articles and posts about parent involvement in education as there were a few years ago, but I still notice a number of posts on the topic circulating on social media.  The various terms are used and referred to: Involvement, engagement, empowerment, etc.  There seems to be a consistent question though.  I was reminded of that recently after reading an article about parent involvement plans in Scotland which included the statement,

One of our challenges is a lack of common understanding around what ‘involved in learning’ actually means in and around schools.”

I have written before (for example, this post) about defining and understanding the meaning of parent engagement (in schools, learning, education). I think it is important to remember:  When the different terms are used by one person, another person may understand them in a completely different way. Maybe a further question would help clarify references and appeals for parent engagement: Involved in/to do what?… Empowered in/to do what?… Involved in learning how?  If parents are to learn how children learn, is there enough agreement on that amongst educators (let alone parents)?  Would a fuller discussion and analysis help all decide if and how the goals can be supported?

Feedback and thoughts appreciated.

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