Category Archives: CSG Toolkit

Toolkit: Questions to Ask Your Child’s Teacher at a Parent Teacher Conference – Part III

by Cortney Durista Lockhart

duritsa_headshotToday concludes our series of posts by teacher Cortney Durista Lockhart on questions a parent should ask at that parent-teacher conference. Click here for part one and part two.

Part 3

1. What can I as a parent do to best support you and my child?

Some teachers love having parent volunteers every single day, while others may need your support outside the classroom. Asking what you can do to best support the teacher will let him or her know that you respect his or her role as a professional and establish right away that you are willing to help in whatever way you can. If you’re worried that asking this question means that you’ll have to volunteer every day in your child’s classroom, don’t – donating extra school supplies, translating parent newsletters, or reading with your child every night or morning (to name a few things) are all wonderful ways to support your child and his or her teacher.

2.    How often do you update/communicate grades?

Many schools have very clear expectations around updating grades, but some do not. Asking how often the teacher will be communicating about grades holds both you and the teacher accountable for staying on top of grading. You could also ask about grading scales and late work and extra credit policies during this conversation.

3.    What is your classroom management system like?

This might be a system that is consistent school wide or it might change depending on the classroom, but make sure that you and your child fully understand the expectations and consequences for behavior. A good classroom management will have clear expectations and consequences that are student friendly and reasonable – if a teacher is assigning 300 lines for missing a homework assignment, engage him or her in a conversation about why he or she thinks that this is an appropriate consequence. There might not be a perfect ending to this conversation, but being open about behavior expectations in the classroom early on could help prevent issues later in the year.

4.    Are parents welcome in your classroom as volunteers? As visitors?

We all want to help with our children’s learning, but if you haven’t cracked open an Algebra textbook in twenty years, you might not want to offer your services as a math tutor for your student’s teacher. Instead, ask if the teacher could use help organizing papers or providing resources like pencils, paper, or even snacks for students. Also ask if you can stop by just to see how your child is doing from time to time (and be sure to double check on your school’s visitor policies and procedures).

Cortney Duritsa Lockhart has always been passionate about equitable education and is currently a 7th grade math and civics teacher at West Generation Academy. She has lived all over Colorado and now lives in Denver with her husband and cat. 

 

Toolkit: Questions to Ask Your Child’s Teacher at a Parent Teacher Conference – Part II

by Cortney Durista Lockhart

duritsa_headshot

This week, teacher Cortney Durista Lockhart shares her tips for what questions a parent should ask at that parent-teacher conference. Click here for part one, and stay tuned for more ideas tomorrow!

Part 2

1. What can I do to be supporting my student in his or her growth in your class?

Oftentimes, taking a simple step such as reading every night with your child or asking him or her multiplication and division questions while you’re doing the dishes can build huge growth for your child. Researching colleges or summer programs with your child might be a way that you can help as well. Teachers sometimes don’t know how to ask parents to help with these little things, so take the initiative and ask!

2. What are your goals for my student this year?

Every teacher has goals for his or her students, just as every parent has a long list of goals for his or her child. Ask what your child should be able to do and know by the end of year and then engage in a conversation about what this will look like. Your child’s teacher should be able to clearly explain these goals and the steps along the way, maybe using a syllabus or an organizer to help your child stay on track.

3. How is learning assessed (tests, projects, presentations, etc.)?

There’s no way around it – we live in a test and data driven world. Asking teachers how they assess student learning can open up some important conversations that won’t happen otherwise. What if your child has severe test anxiety? Does his or her teacher take a variety of different factors into consideration when grading, or is everything determined by just one test every unit? Be sure that you know how the teacher measures learning so that you can be supportive for your student.

4. What motivates you to teach?

As a teacher, this is one of the best questions that I have ever been asked by a parent. Though it might catch your child’s teacher off-guard, it is a great way to get to know the teacher more personally. This will give you a chance to see if your values and your child’s learning style will be best served by this teacher. The best teachers are those that push us in our thinking, so be open to new perspectives and ideas!

Cortney Duritsa Lockhart has always been passionate about equitable education and is currently a 7th grade math and civics teacher at West Generation Academy. She has lived all over Colorado and now lives in Denver with her husband and cat. 

 

Toolkit: Questions to Ask Your Child’s Teacher at a Parent Teacher Conference

by Cortney Durista Lockhart

duritsa_headshotA parent-teacher conference is an excellent opportunity to get to know your child’s classroom and their teacher. It’s one way to uncover some simple ways to get more involved in your student’s education and improve their experience at school. This week, over three days, teacher Cortney Durista Lockhart shares her tips for what questions a parent should ask at that parent-teacher conference.

Part 1

1. What are your rules on technology in the classroom?

Some teachers might have to follow school wide policies around technology, such as no cell phones or iPods in any classrooms. However, some teachers may be integrating text message polls and surveys into their everyday instruction  or giving homework on internet-ready computers so that students can use the technology that they so love! Talking to your student’s teacher about his or her technology preferences will help you message to your child how he or she should be using technology while at school.

2. What are your expectations around homework?

Teachers have many different stances on giving homework, and it’s important to know where your child’s teacher stands early in the year. Ask about how much homework to expect weekly, when tests and quizzes will be given, and what your role as a parent is in making sure that the homework is completed. Homework should not be busywork but instead a way for your child to practice or build upon what he or she learned in the classroom that day.

3. What are the strengths and challenges that you have observed in my student’s performance so far?

Sometimes, a teacher will notice things about your child’s learning style that you might not – maybe Alexia works really well in groups but struggles to work alone, or Martin knows his fractions but cannot understand decimals. Asking about strengths and challenges might give you more insight into what to work on at home with your child. Additionally, it lets you as the parent know that your student’s teacher really knows who your child is and how he or she learns best.

4. How do you prefer to communicate with parents? Students?

Teachers and parents are all busy people, so asking about how best to communicate will help both you and your student’s teacher feel supported. Maybe one teacher loves to send text messages or emails, but another prefers phone conversations. Ask if teachers are available to answer homework questions after normal school hours via text or call (as students move into higher level classes like Calculus or Physics, this can be extremely helpful). Be sure to also talk about how often you should expect to be hearing from your student’s teacher.

Cortney Duritsa Lockhart has always been passionate about equitable education and is currently a 7th grade math and civics teacher at West Generation Academy. She has lived all over Colorado and now lives in Denver with her husband and cat. 

 

Improve a School: Get to Know Your School Board & Other Elected Officials

Your elected officials are a great resource for any parent looking to improve a school. Here are a few ways to connect with those you’ve voted into office.

1. Know your school board members:

Happy Haynes

Denver Public Schools Board Member Happy Haynes at a DPS Forum

These are the people who are elected to serve you! Keep track of their decisions and their stances on education policy, and if you disagree, let them know by sending an email, letter or making a quick phone call.

Not sure what to say? Click here for some ideas on how to reach out.

2. Get to know your state legislators:

These elected officials make decisions about Colorado’s schools. Not sure who your state legislator is? Find out by entering your address in this interactive map.

3. Attend a school board meeting:

A lot of crucial decisions are made at school board meetings that affect the education of your child every day. Make your voice heard! Check your school district’s website to find out a time and place for your next school board meeting. Find a list of many of Colorado’s School Boards and links to their websites here.