What K-2 teachers want parents to know: 10 small concerns which can turn into big issues

Welcome to my third blog in the series “What K-2 teachers want parents to know”. This blog aims to give parents information about 10 areas of concern that teachers spend so much of their time dealing with. These may seem like small issues but they do cause a lot of stress for the classroom teacher and without intervention can turn into big issues. I encourage you to read the list and see how many of them may be relevant to you and your child.

1. Child coming late most days

KidsRunning-Backpacks[1]This is a hard issue for a teacher to tackle as it involves asking the parent and child to be more organised in the morning. Teachers understand that on the odd morning there are situations that cannot be helped which leads to a child coming late to school. Unfortunately some children are late nearly every day. They miss the morning routine and beginning of literacy or numeracy. A child usually walks in sheepishly and has to figure out what they should be doing. Most times the teacher needs to stop what he/she is doing and explain everything again for the child who comes late. This wastes valuable teaching and learning time at such an important part of the day. If a child is late 15 minutes every day it could account to them missing the equalivalent to 50 hours of precious literacy or numeracy learning for the year if they are never away any other day.

2. A child having many days off school

bermuda-family-holidays[1]School is very important and children learn the value of education through the emphasis that parents place on it. It seems like it is an epidemic at the moment; that so many children take extended time off from school for holidays and regular time off for many other trivial reasons. Teachers understand that parents can be restricted to when they take holidays or some events come up that require all the family to attend but education must also be seen as equally important. It is very difficult for a child to have an entire term off school and try and “catch up”. One piece of advice for parents who are taking their child for an extended holiday is DO NOT ASK FOR WORK. This seems like common practice but it is very unfair on the teacher. They not only have to set work that the child can complete independently but also has to mark all the work once it returns. More often than not the child does not complete most of it because they are busy enjoying their holiday (which they should be doing). Instead of asking your child to do “school work” get them to keep a journal of their holiday and continue reading each day.

3. If you want to speak to a teacher, make an appointment

teacher-meeting-467x267[1]Making an appointment to speak to your child’s teacher is so important. For every type of profession, if you need to discuss anything with them, you need to make an appointment. Education should be no different. An issue that your child is having requires the full attention of the teacher and having a scheduled time allows the teacher the time to provide evidence and give the correct information. Asking the teacher questions regarding your child while the teacher is on playground duty or teaching in the class is not the appropriate time for obvious reasons. Get your child to give the teacher a note requesting a meeting. Indicate on the note what you would like to discuss in the meeting so the teacher can bring any related information or invite any specialist teachers to attend that could provide additional support  for your child.

4. Lunch boxes

The lunch box has significantly changed since I went to school. Not only in physical appearance (with compartments, ice packs, heat packs, cutlery and wipes) but in what food (or amount of food) goes into them. Teachers of Kindergarten, Year 1 and Year 2 children all want to scream “STOP PACKING SO MUCH FOOD” Children are given a few varieties of fruit, a few packets of chips or biscuits, food bars and treats and this is only for morning tea. Children spend all of their morning tea and lunch time eating. Children need to run around and be active. They will not starve in the 6 hours of school, so two pieces of fruit and one sandwich (or equivalent) will be sufficient. Encourage your child to only drink water and always ensure they have had breakfast before coming to school.

5. Excursions

Excursions are a great way for children to have the opportunity to learn from seeing and doing. There are many great excursions starting from Kindergarten that will help to enrich your child’s knowledge and understanding about a topic. Usually most excursions require parent helpers as there is a smaller limit of children to adult ratios when outside the school grounds. Most parents would love the opportunity to come and they are even prepared to take a day off work for it. Unfortunately schools can not take all the parents who are interested. Most excursions require 2 - 3 parents per class to satisfy legal requirements and fit in buses and to go on specific tours which are restricted by numbers. Teachers will try to be fair by picking names out of a hat or use some other way of selecting the parents. Have a discussion with your child when you receive the excursion note and explain to them that you will write that you could come but you might not be picked.

6. Home life

In order for the teacher to do the best for each child in their class they need to know the whole picture of each child. All families are different and families will go through tough times at some point. It is important that teachers are aware of a change in the child’s home life which may impact on them at school. The teacher does not need details of the situation (unless you feel the teacher should) but a quick discussion helps the teacher immensely when dealing with the child at school. Situations in the home life could be a recent breakdown of a relationship, death of a family member or friend, a life threatening illness or a tragic event.

7. Two sides to every story

upset boyThere will be times when your child comes home from school upset about something that has occurred. As a parent it is very difficult to see your child upset. It is important to listen to what your child has to say and get them to come up with some ideas to fix it. Even children in Kindergarten can be given this responsibility. If they haven’t spoken to their teacher, encourage them to. Try not to go up to the teacher before the child has seen them about the issue (or give them a few days to go and speak to the teacher and if they haven’t, encourage them to write a note to the teacher) We want children to be problem solvers and learn how to deal with problems efficiently. There are times, however, that a parent needs to intervene. Parents need to understand that they have only heard part of a two sided story and to try and not make judgements based on one side. Throwing around terms like “bullying” can be dangerous. Always remember that the people we are dealing with are children and that they are learning about our world and how to behave in it. If you are unhappy with the response of the teacher you are within your rights to request a meeting with the Principal to discuss the issue further.

8. Encourage your child to be tolerant

wpid-boy-hiding-face[1]We live in a world where the value of tolerance is diminishing. As adults we are put in many situations where we are surrounded by people who are very different to us but we still need to be able to work with them. We need children to realise that they do not need to be best friends with everyone in their class but they need to be able to work with everyone. Everyone comes from different home situations and it is sometimes difficult for the teacher as they can not inform other parents of the terrible home life a student that is causing issues has. I have worked with many children who are sent to school in dirty clothes, paint still on their faces from the day before, no food and who have been left at school as no one has picked them up. Please let your child know that some children do not have all the wonderful things that they may have or a family that loves them as much as you love your child. Sometimes we need to excuse a particular child as they do not have a loving family to look after their best interests and they just do the best they can to get by. If we all had a bit more tolerance, the world would be a better place.

9. Hand in notes

14716277[1]Teachers spend a lot of their time chasing children who have not handed in notes. Notes are important as they are usually giving permission for your child to attend an event that is happening in the school. Please make the job of the teacher easier and return notes by their due date.

10. Helping in the school

reading 2Helping in the classroom as a parent reader or in helping in the canteen  helps the school so much. This help benefits so many children in the school community. Although most parents are fantastic, there are a few that spoil it. Sometimes having a certain parent to help creates so much more work for the teacher that the teacher would rather have no help. Some parent’s motives for helping in the room or school are harmful to other children. Some parents want to use this time to have a discussion with the teacher about their child, want to find out the levels of all the children and where their child is placed and some just want to observe and provide information to other parents. Make sure before you decide that you will help, that your motives are good. Do it to help the children in the class.

I hope you have found this blog an interesting read. There are many other small teacher concerns that exist in classrooms that I haven’t written about.  If you have any other ideas please add a comment as I would love to read them. I am looking forward to hearing other teacher’s and parent’s perspectives in regards to their thoughts and experiences.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

What K-2 Teachers want Parents to Know - Grades on Reports

Welcome to my second blog in the series “What K-2 teachers want parents to know”. This is a series that focuses on common concerns that parents of Kindergarten, Year 1 and Year 2 students have. This blog looks into the world of “grading” for reports and gives parents information about what they need to know before they even open their child’s report.

New South Wales Primary schools send student reports home twice a year. The first one being at the end of Semester 1 (End of Term 2) and the second one at the end of Semester 2 (End of Term 4). The report’s aim is to give parents information about their child and give the parent an understanding of whether their child is meeting benchmarks for their age.

Reports can cause a lot of mixed emotions for many households. It can be a time of celebration of a child’s achievement or a realisation that your child is struggling to meet the expected level of a particular grade. With all situations, reports need to be used as a conversation starter between you and your child and between you and your child’s teacher.

Below is a list of 10 facts that all K-2 parents need to know before they read their child’s report.

1. The Board Of Studies - What is a KLA?

BoS%20Logo[1]The Board of Studies is the governing body for the implementation of teaching and assessing of students in NSW. They are responsible for setting the core curriculum that is being taught in schools and regulates how much time is allocated to the teaching of each KLA (Key Learning Area). A Key Learning Area is a term used to name a particular area of study.  There are 6 KLA’s in Primary School. They are English, Mathematics, Human Society and Its Environment (History), Science, Creative Arts and Personal Development, Health and Physical Education. Some schools may have the addition of Religious Education as their seventh KLA. All these KLA’s need to be assessed by a child’s teacher and a child is given a grade for each of these KLA’s on their reports.

2. Time allocation for each KLA

KLAsSchools are restricted to how much time they can allocate to the teaching of each KLA. Teachers must assess each child for each KLA in the allocated time per week. In Primary school the time allocations are; English (25%-35%), Mathematics (20%), Science (6%-10%), HSIE (6%-10%), Creative Arts (6%-10%), PDHPE (6%-10%) and additional time for Religious Education, assemblies etc (up to 20%). As a general guide 6%-10% is usually 1.5 - 2.5hrs in a typical teaching week. Many infant classes use combined units to incorporate a few KLA’s in the one learning experience.

3. Stages in Primary Education

children readingThere are 4 stages in Primary Education. Early Stage 1 is Kindergarten, Stage 1 is Years 1-2, Stage 2 is Years 3-4 and Stage 3 is Years 5-6. There are many different types of schools within NSW. Some schools operate in year groups and some schools operate in stage groups. Some schools operate in single classrooms while others have open learning (a few classes work in their own space in a large room). All students are different and they thrive differently in different environments. All schools are bound by the same curriculum, time allocation for teaching each KLA and grading responsibilities, however, schools can chose the best way to deliver the teaching and learning experiences to their students.

4. Outcomes

teacher assessingEach KLA has outcomes that address a particular concept in the area of study that is related to what stage level the child is at. Teachers assess whether a child has not achieved, achieved or has gone beyond each outcome at the particular stage of each KLA. A teacher must look at the child’s achievement across all the outcomes in a KLA that have been taught and then communicate that to the parent and child in the form of a grade for that KLA. An example of a Kindergarten outcome in Mathematics is “Counts to 30, and orders, reads and represents numbers in the range 0 to 20″

5. Kindergarten grading

reading 1Kindergarten is the only grade in Primary school that does not have “Grades”. Teachers generally communicate a child’s achievement in relation to them achieving an outcome or working towards an outcome. This is their first year at “formal schooling” and being it is its own stage, grading does not commence until the children move into Stage 1.

6. What does a “C” mean?

Grade AThis is an area that causes the most stress to parents as the meanings of grades have changed a lot since they went to school. Most parents want their child to receive an “A” but many parents do not realise how difficult it really is to receive an “A”. A “C” is given to a student who is meeting all the requirements of that stage level. They are able to work efficiently in the classroom and achieve all benchmarks at that stage. Most students, as a result, will receive a “C”. Even though some parents are not happy with their child’s “C” for a KLA, it actually informs them that their child is doing exactly what they are meant to be doing.

7. How a teacher grades

assessmentsGrading is not an easy task. Many students can be on the border line of two grades. Two students could receive a “C” for a KLA but one could actually be a high C (nearly a B) and the other could be a low C (just higher than a D). Even though each grade could have such a big spectrum this is not written on the report. A teacher must use all the assessments completed, written evidence in work books and their own observations to give one grade for an entire KLA. They must look at everything that has been taught during the Semester and the contribution that the child has made to group tasks, individual tasks, projects and class discussions to get an overall achievement level.

8. Student’s strengths

littleboyParents may find a grade unjust for their child if their child may be particularly gifted in an area of that KLA. For example, If a child is a particularly gifted skier and they receive a “C” for PDHPE, their parent may believe that this grade is not a reflection of their child. What the parent does not realise, is that within each KLA there are many strands that need to be taught. In PDHPE there are several strands. All health modules, Dance, Gymnastics, Games and Sports, and Active Lifestyle. This child may be gifted in Skiing but that is only one sport out of many that may or may not be taught within the school. They may achieve at a “normal” level with all other sports and their understanding of the theory component associated to PDHPE, so their average grade for all areas of PDHPE is a “C”. This is reflected in all KLA’s.

9. Report Comments

ParentsreadingReport comments can be particularly difficult for a teacher. They are restricted by how many characters they can write and also how they are allowed to describe different learning attributes of a student. The best advice I have for parents is LISTEN in your parent-teacher interviews. This is a time where teachers can go into more detail about your child and show you examples of your child’s work. They can suggest specific activities you could do at home with your child that targets your child’s area of weakness. Always attend the parent-teacher interviews as they usually offer so much more information than a grade on a paper.

10. Working out a plan

parentteacherPrior to reading a child’s report, a parent generally has a good idea of their child’s academic ability. If you have concerns about your child’s rate of development and reading their report supports your thoughts, speak to the child’s class teacher about it. Just because a child is struggling it does not always mean that they will struggle for the rest of their educational journey. Work out a plan with your child’s teacher about the next steps that you or the school will undertake to identify what your child’s additional learning needs may be. This could include going to a GP, having a speech or hearing assessment or having an observation survey completed by an OT or specialised teacher. Early intervention is the key, so the earlier you identify the extra needs of your child, the more success your child will have. Always book a date for the next meeting with the teacher in order to discuss what has been completed since the previous meeting.

Grades of an A,B,C, D or E enables parents to have a small insight into the academic abilities of their child. Teachers encourage parents to not just use grades as the only way to judge their child’s success at school. They need to also think about their child’s social and emotional development as a factor in assessing a child’s “success” at school.

If your child has special needs and you and their teacher believes that “no benefit” will come from your child reading all “E’s” in their report, you can request to have a report with no grades and just comments. The special need’s teacher at your school can offer more information about this idea.

Reports cause a lot of stress for children, parents and teachers. Always remember to use reports as a way of starting communication with your child about their strengths and weaknesses at school. Try not to compare their grades with their peers or with other siblings. Use it to get your child to set some academic goals they want to achieve before the end of next Semester.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani