Today's Lesson

In our experience we have met 2 types of parents; parents looking for the best school (‘best’ based on a set of criteria predetermined well before they speak to us). And - the other type of parent.  Parents who are determined to find the best school for their child.

 

If you are the first type of parent, best of luck to you on your search. We are confident you will find an amazing school (as many do exist) and your child may (or may not) bask in their glow of excellence. Unfortunately, excellence does not breed through osmosis. We believe that one rather, should approach selecting their child’s school with a grain of realism. 

 

Which brings me to the most important question you can ask yourself to launch your search: “What is the best school for my child?”

 

At Wolff Educational Services we conduct needs assessments that breaks this criteria into 3 selection houses. They are the Social, Emotional and Academic Houses of your child’s success and achievement at school. We have broken these houses into realistic criteria based on actual achievement data (the learning skills) and are written in academic language (reflective of curriculum expectations). Once the assessment is completed, it is simply a matter of matching the results (your child's area of strength and need) with the schools that offer programming in these areas. The equation breeds student success and achievement. Its flawless in its design.

 

Parents, education today is comprised of these 3 houses working together in unity and harmony. Students must demonstrate learning in all 3 of these areas in order to be successful. The way the curriculum is taught and learned is not inherent of 20th century practices anymore. 21st century classrooms are much more layered in there design and learning platforms are reflective of differentiated instruction, individualized for your child to demonstrate learning and skills. 

 

Before you begin your school search, know what it is your are looking for. Know what your child's strengths and areas of need are in each area (house) of the learning platforms and how they relate to both the classroom and school. Understand what the classroom does and can do, map the landscape as you would any foreign environment. 

 

And if you feel like you need an education in all things education before you try and map out a route for your child - call us! We can help - however, we will only find the best school for your child….not necessarily what you think is the best school.

 

Until Our Next Lesson……

 

How is Bullying addressed at your child's school?

Ontario has designated the week beginning on the third Sunday of November as Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week to promote safe schools and a positive learning environment.

All schools have published this definition in your child’s agendas, on the school website or somewhere visible inside of the school:

Bullying is defined as a form of repeated, persistent and aggressive behaviour directed at an individual or individuals that is intended to cause (or should be known to cause) fear and distress and/or harm to another person's body, feelings, self-esteem or reputation. Bullying occurs in a context where there is a real or perceived power imbalance.

 Bullying can present in different forms. These include:

Physical (hitting, shoving, stealing or damaging property)

Verbal (name calling, mocking, or making sexist, racist or homophobic comments)

Social (excluding others from a group or spreading gossip or rumours about them)

Electronic (commonly known as cyberbullying) – spreading rumours and hurtful comments through the use of cellphones, e-mail, text messaging and social networking sites)

Bullying happens when children and adolescents selectively (for a variety of reasons) choose to be unkind, to not think of others and to therefore not exercise empathy, tolerance, compassion and understanding towards peers, youth and others in general.

What are schools doing to keep your children safe?

It is important to know that every school has a Safe School Strategy. This strategy requires that all schools have a bullying prevention and intervention plan and procedures in place, as well as a safe school’s team. Schools have been provided with resources and training for teachers and principals. So ask your child’s principal about what their Safe school strategy is and how it can help protect your child.

The Ministry of Education sees bullying as a serious problem as demonstrated by the policies and procedures that are in place:

Policy (PPM140) defines bullying and outlines expectations for school boards on bullying prevention and intervention.

http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/extra/eng/ppm/144.pdf

The Keeping our Kids Safe at School Act came into effect in 2010 and states that all staff must report serious incidents and respond to inappropriate actions that take place in schools.

And, Bill 212 states that students both in elementary and secondary school who engage in any type of bullying and break the code of conduct can get suspended from school.

Bullying affects the whole child (socially, emotionally and academically) and every aspect of their life. If your child is being bullied, don’t wait – get help. Here is the ministry guide on what to look for if you suspect your child is getting bullied:

http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/multi/english/BullyingEN.pdf

Please educate your child and yourself in how to keep our schools and students safe. Urge them to participate and do their part to stand up to bullying and to keep the lines of communication open and honest. Remind them that schools are safe places and that there are many programs and policies in place that protect students and make all schools safe places to learn.

When students understand that bullying is a school, community and societal issue – they won’t feel alone in their struggle.  That knowledge may even discourage a child who may have engaged in bullying type behaviours to find a better way to express themselves.

This week is an opportunity to echo at home what your child is learning about in their school. It is a perfect week for a social emotional check in.

Stay Safe.
Kindness Counts.
Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Until our next Lesson…..

The Low Down on LD's

October is Learning Disability Awareness month. A learning disability is not something that one can outgrow and it does not go away. Students with LD’s must recognize that they are not dumb, slow, unsuccessful – or any other labels that children who have learning disabilities often feel.

In fact, just the opposite pertains to these children and students. These students need to know that with appropriate resources, supports and understanding, they will be successful. Schools today are beginning at a young age, to educate students with LD’s about their areas of challenge and what they need to do in order to be successful. Students need to learn to advocate for themselves.  Students, even young ones, need to understand how they learn and implement these methods and strategies into their daily routine.

Once a student is diagnosed, the school is legally obligated to alter the school program to compensate for the specific area(s) of disability. Because these students are capable of learning and being very successful accommodations are applied to help make up for areas of weakness. 

By definition, a Learning Disability affects the ability to acquire, retain, understand, organize and/or use information.  Sometimes one of these areas is affected and sometimes multiple areas are impaired. That’s why no two LD’s are the same. 

Teachers look for the following criteria when deciding if a student is presenting with learning difficulties:

Difficulty listening, speaking and/or understanding oral language

Difficulty decoding words and understanding written language

Difficulty spelling and expressing ideas in writing

Difficulty with math computations and problem solving

Difficulty planning what needs to be done and following through

Difficulty with social interactions

Academic underachievement – appearing lazy

Unusually high level of effort and/or support to achieve success

If you suspect your child has a LD speak to their teacher today.

Special Education teams exist in all schools and are there to aid and support your child and family through developing a plan to ensure student success and achievement for ALL.

Until Our Next Lesson…

 

 

Permission to just stop? Permission Granted.

Hiatus. A pause or gap in a sequence, series or process. In layman’s terms it refers to a period of time when something stops. One may say then, that summer vacation provides for an imposed hiatus from what we commonly refer to as “the school year”. Why is this important? Because I am writing to you from a break in my own self-imposed hiatus…here is why:

Since the beginning of time we have known that “summer vacation” (aka: hiatus) is a wonderful pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Because we all need time to regroup, recharge and reflect. This very important growth phase simply cannot happen during the school year grind.

What can (and does) happen during the school year is growth – rapid growth. Monumental life changing growth. Academic growth. Social growth and of course – Emotional growth. But all this personal growing can only mean something if it is realized by the individual doing the work.

Can a child realize this? Absolutely. If given the space and opportunity to. Where? How? When?

On summer vacation of course. On their hiatus from school. Believe or or not, when a child is not on a predictable schedule (rushing to complete their morning routine) and they are permitted to wake up and begin their day as they choose – the process of reflection begins.

It is through a child reflecting on learned skills and putting those skills into practice that they are able to realize their growth.

A child does not consciously summon learned skills and behaviours to practice with precision – they do that as they draw on learned skills in new environments and situations. A summer holiday can provide both a new environment and various new situations for your child to navigate.  Are they going to camp? Are they surrounded by new peers? Are they trying a sport or activity? Are they travelling? Are they spending lots of time at home or in the community? Where ever your child is this summer rest assured that they are in environments that are new. Experiencing situations that are new. They will be on a hiatus. Reflecting on their growth and putting it into practice.

Enjoy this time with your children and watch them closely. Watch as all the difficult lessons that they persevered through last year are now but a distant memory. Revel in their accomplishments. You may even want to reflect on the people they were way back in September on their first day of whatever grade they finished. Think about their growth! And smile – and sigh and laugh. They couldn’t have made it here without you.

My professional advice? Go on a hiatus. Do it. I know you are doubting your ability to do so, after all – who will steer your ship? Let me remind you that in a few short weeks – it will all begin again. So stop. And watch. And learn.

 

I know I did.

 

Until our next lesson (when school resumes that is)…

 

How to maximize teacher Facetime? Use the acronym: POP

As this school year is winding down, there might be ongoing concerns you have about how the year has gone OR you have concerns regarding next year. Whether you are scheduling a meeting with your child’s teacher or run into him/her when you’re in the school, you want to maximize your “facetime.” The standard, “How’s my child doing?” will often yield the same response, “Fine, nothing to worry about.” Or, “There’s a problem in math, let’s set up a time to talk about it.”

The question is,  “How to get the most information in whatever time you have?”  The key is to be Prepared, Organized, and leave with a Plan. Whatever concern you might have will fall into one of these categories: academic, social or emotional. 

The first step to being prepared is to PRIORITIZE your concerns.  What are you most concerned? Problems with friends? A specific academic area? Anxiety?  Self esteem? Whatever the area of concern, be able to provide the teacher with examples.

Once you decide precisely what it is you want to discuss, the next step is to ASK the right question. Don’t ask a question that you already know the answer to. 

Not: “How is my child doing in math?”

Say: “I noticed my child received a Level 2 on the last Numeracy assessment, what can we do to help them improve?”

Often parents request interviews because they feel they really don’t know how their child is doing.  Perhaps they haven’t seen work samples or they can’t get a satisfactory answer from their child.  Ask the teacher specific questions.

Not: How’s my child doing?

Say: “Can you tell me what my child’s academic strengths and weaknesses are?  Can you show me examples?  Can you suggest how we can develop the areas of strength and improve the areas of weakness?  Can you show me what that assignment should have looked like? 

Academic areas are often easier to discuss than social/emotional areas.  But, direct questions should result in a clear understanding of strengths and/or weaknesses. 

Not: Does my child have friends?

Say: Does my child demonstrate age appropriate social skills? Does my child begin tasks promptly? Does he/she work independently?

You want to leave the meeting feeling that your concerns/questions have been addressed. If you are feeling unclear and the time is up, ask to set up another meeting. You may want to clarify what it is that you will be doing and what the teacher will be doing. Have a clear Plan.

Remember: POP

·      Prioritize

·      Organize

·      Plan

 

School Placement: How do you choose the right school for your child? It is a simple formula....if you ask and answer the right questions.

In our experience we have met 2 types of parents; parents looking for the best school (‘best’ based on a set of criteria predetermined well before they speak to us). And - the other type of parent.  Parents who are determined to find the best school for their child.

If you are the first type of parent, best of luck to you on your search. We are confident you will find an amazing school (as many do exist) and your child may (or may not) bask in their glow of excellence. Unfortunately, excellence does not breed through osmosis. We believe that one rather, should approach selecting their child’s school with a grain of realism. 

Which brings me to the most important question you can ask yourself to launch your search: “What is the best school for my child?”

At Wolff Educational Services we conduct needs assessments that breaks this criteria into 3 selection houses. They are the Social, Emotional and Academic Houses of your child’s success and achievement at school. We have broken these houses into realistic criteria based on actual achievement data (the learning skills) and are written in academic language (reflective of curriculum expectations). Once the assessment is completed, it is simply a matter of matching the results (your child's area of strength and need) with the schools that offer programming in these areas. The equation breeds student success and achievement. Its flawless in its design.

Parents, education today is comprised of these 3 houses working together in unity and harmony. Students must demonstrate learning in all 3 of these areas in order to be successful. The way the curriculum is taught and learned is not inherent of 20th century practices anymore. 21st century classrooms are much more layered in their design. Learning platforms are reflective of differentiated instruction, individualized for your child to demonstrate learning and skills. 

Before you begin your school search, know what it is your are looking for. Know what your child's strengths and areas of need are in each area (house) of the learning platforms and how they relate to both the classroom and school. Understand what the classroom does and can do, map the landscape as you would any foreign environment. 

And if you feel like you need an education in all things education before you try and map out a route for your child - call us! We can help - however, we will only find the best school for your child….not necessarily what you think is the best school.

Until Our Next Lesson……

 

Public School IEP's - Will They be done? Yes! But when...???

Here is what you need to know…

This school year has not started the way teachers or parents had hoped.  The escalating Work to Rule dictates what teachers can and cannot do.  The latest phase says that teachers do NOT have to update the IEP’s by the 30th day of school, as they usually do. Does this mean that teacher’s are ignoring their students’ needs. Absolutely not.  

In a year not affected by a work to rule, parents of students on IEP’s would have already received the Consultation Form, requesting their input. If your child’s teacher has not yet sent this, you should ensure that teachers have the most up to date information as it pertains to your child.  For example, is there a new assessment or report that the teacher should know about? Is there a new medication that the teacher needs to be aware of? Are there any social/emotional issues that might impact your child’s learning?

Until a new IEP is written, the last IEP is still being used.  Be sure that your child’s teacher has a copy of it.  It is not too soon to have a conversation with your child’s teacher to discuss his/her strengths and needs.  The more informed a teacher is, the easier it is for the teacher to provide programming and instruction to match the strengths, needs and learning style of your child.

Don’t wait. It’s not too early to talk about your child. Be an advocate.  Begin the year with open communication in order to provide the teacher with relevant information to be included on the IEP and to drive the instruction in a path that will result in a successful year.

Until our next lesson….

Public School - Will things get worse before they get better? What are you going to do?

Teacher unrest and contract negotiations have led to the likelihood of no extra curricular activities when the kids return to school. Could it get worse before it gets better? Absolutely. This has kept us very busy as of late fielding questions from concerned parents about private vs. public education.

There are many factors to consider when making the transition from public to private school. The greatest benefit that private schools can offer to parents today is choice - choice of school culture, environment, curriculum and cohorts. When parents make the switch they are generally looking for a higher quality of education, devoted teachers and elements of social and emotional development that include increased self esteem and consistent encouragement. Parents look for schools where teachers are engaged with their students academic, social and emotional development inside and outside of the classroom - before and after school hours. 

What was interesting to us was the increased number of phone calls we received about students in high school looking to transition into the private system now. These parents spoke very highly of the public system and their children were quite successful in it - but now that university and college are on the horizon - they are looking for something to help their children ‘stand out from the pack’. This is not easy to accomplish when virtually all clubs and teams may cease to exist this fall. Many private schools offer AP (advanced placement) programs where students can earn university credits prior to attending post secondary while still in high school, Duke of Edinburgh and IB (International Baccalaureate) programs that are accessible despite your address. Contact us if you want more information about what these programs are and how to access them for your child.

So what then is the advantage to staying in public school? As a public school teacher, I can assure you there are many.  And, if you have children in the public system you already weighed the pros and cons and came up with your decision for public education. But, if you are on the fence, consider this: your child will develop compassion, empathy and a tolerance for others when sitting in a classroom with 25-30 other children who are all learning together. There is of course the cost factor - it’s free. 

 Something else to consider is that a private school can pick and choose who attends their school - your child may not fit into their school culture, or the one they are trying to create. 

The long and the short of it is - Do your research! Visit schools. Ask the right questions and decide what you are looking for in your child’s whole educational portfolio. Is private school better? Not always. Is public school worse? Not really. Can you base this decision on vague criteria that generalizes the experience of education - definitely not.  As parents what do you think - do you get what you pay for in regards to education - or should you avoid looking a gift horse in the mouth?

Contact us directly for more information.

Until Our Next Lesson….

Do you have questions or concerns that were not addressed this year because you did not recieve a Provincial Report Card? Put your HAND UP! in our virtual classroom...

For the first time in a long time the school year ended and your child did not come home with a Provincial Report card. There was no descriptive feedback discussing their strengths and areas of improvement and there were no learning skills that explained how your child learns and performs best at school.  

This lack of information can leave many wondering - and we are certain many parents like yourself have numerous questions. Questions such as:  What can be said about my child’s achievements this year? How did they grow academically? Did they improve their social skills? Grow their emotional intelligence? Become productive community members in the classroom and beyond? What factors indicate these growths and developments? What are the next steps my child needs to be taking to help narrow the achievement gap? How can I help them do this? 

 As parents we are sometimes in the dark when it comes to navigating the classroom, curriculum and learning expectations. We are not familiar with important terms that impact daily assessment and evaluation such as Overall and Specific expectations, Success Criteria and Summative evaluations.  Parents rely on the provincial report card to explain the learning that takes place, so they can best understand how their child learns and what their areas of strength and improvement are.   

 What we do know as parents is that education jargon is often spoken without translation, decisions about your child's academic program and environment are sometimes made without your knowledge and that all of the information you need to make informed decisions regarding your child's academic, social and emotional welfare is not always shared and made accessible. Do you have a question or concern that you were not able to ask or share? Put your HANDS UP! and ask us - Wolff Educational Services can answer your questions and address your concerns. 

So, if you want answers pertaining to your child’s learning, their placement, areas of improvement or transitions, answers that were not addressed with achievement data -  Wolff Educational Services can help - we are offering HANDS UP! A place where parents can email us their questions or concerns and we can provide accurate up-to-date relevant information as it pertains to your individual questions and concerns.

Just click on the link below and send us your questions or concerns and we will reply with the answers you need to know. Just because school is out and you do not have a report card in hand does not mean the learning ends….so put your HANDS UP! And ask us anything that you feel was not addressed or answered in the absence of the provincial report card.  

 http://www.wolffeducationalservices.ca/hands-up/

Until Our Next Lesson... 

No Report Cards??? What you need to know about not receiving a Provincial report this June.

As you may know, elementary teachers in Ontario are taking part in strike action which includes not recording student marks electronically for the purpose of producing report cards. Will your child be assessed? Yes. Will those assessments be the basis of formal evaluations? Absolutely. Are they still being taught learning skills that they are expected to demonstrate daily? Of course. Are you going to be able to see this in the form of a provincial report card – not this year.

Teachers have taught the curriculum. They have assessed the learning. They have given students many opportunities to demonstrate this learning and finally, they have indeed evaluated this learning. They know exactly where your child stands in terms of being at, above or below the provincial grade level – which is a B. Teachers have given all of this information to your school principal. The difference is that no one is inputting these marks into a central system to produce report cards.

What can you do as a parent?

1.)    Contact the school principal and ask how they intend to handle the influx of parents wishing to see their child’s grades. Perhaps principals will develop a school based system for this, if you want to see these grades, your principal has them.

2.)    Speak to your child’s teacher. Ask specific questions such as “Is there a particular area of underperformance or weakness that we should be focusing on this summer?”

3.)    Speak to your child. Ask them to create a list of Strengths and Weaknesses. Ask them to think of 3 for each category. Talk this through with them if they are having difficulty.  Bring the list to the teacher and ask them if they agree or disagree. Ask for any additional information that you can add to that list and share it with your child.

4.)    Be patient and understanding. No one wants this. No one enjoys it and no one thinks this is good for the kids. Teachers are in a difficult position because at the end of the day – they are the ones that worked with your children every day for 10 months to help them achieve these results. Principals are going to be inundated with questions, calls and visits from parents, and they too are in a difficult position. But it is your children that will need your support, understanding, encouragement and praise for a job well done. Remind them that despite the final piece of evidence that proves their accomplishments to you – you saw their effort all year and that you are proud of them. Celebrate their accomplishments even if you don’t have documented proof in hand.

During the week of June 22 principals will be providing a letter confirming your child’s placement for the upcoming school year.  Either they will be promoted to the next grade which indicates that they are at or above grade level. Or, they will be transferred to the next grade which indicates that they are below grade level in certain areas.

If you have concerns and need more information, consider getting an academic assessment. This will provide you with accurate, standardized information about your child as a learner and give you accurate raw data and scores in all academic areas.  Contact us for any questions, concerns and support.

Until Our Next  Lesson…..

Who Can Benefit from an Educational Assessment? Everyone!!!

It’s spring and teachers have their eye on June. How much more curriculum do they have to cover? Do they have enough information for the Report Card? What recommendations will they make for each student regarding a class placement for next year? Spring is the time to begin thinking about next year.

What do parents need to know at this point in the year?

Parents need to have accurate, up-to-date information in order to help them make informed decisions about next year as well. Take a minute and think about the following questions as you reflect on the present school year and your child:

  • Do I feel my child has worked to the best of his/her ability?
  • Am I aware of any areas of weakness? Does my child receive good marks in all subject areas?
  • Does my child feel good about school? Are they proud of their achievement?
  • Do my child’s marks reflect the effort he/she puts forth?

If you cannot answer, “Yes” to all of these questions, then it is time to think about an Educational Assessment.

An Educational Assessment is an assessment that uses standardized tools.

This means that it is consistent in the questions that are asked and the manner in which it is administered and scored. The same questions are given to everyone. It requires specific training in order to administer it and it is given in a one-on-one setting, according to certain rules and specifications, so that the testing conditions are the same for all. Because it is standardized, it is scored according to specific criteria. The results are more reliable and valid than the non-standardized assessments given by classroom teachers.

Why should my child have an Educational Assessment?

There are several reasons for this. Firstly, it provides a very precise picture of your child’s academic strengths and weaknesses. For example, it doesn’t just inform that your child may be weak in Reading, but breaks it down into specific components. Is your child having difficulty because of a weakness in decoding? comprehension? fluency? If math is an area of weakness, is it due to a weakness in calculations? reasoning?

Secondly, an Educational Assessment is invaluable in informing classroom instruction. Wouldn’t it be nice to meet with the teacher in September with a list of areas where your child demonstrates strength as well as areas that need improvement? Teachers appreciate this information and because they have indisputable information, they can plan accordingly.

Lastly, an Educational Assessment can be used for making informed decisions. Will my child benefit from accommodations in certain subjects? Would a different type of class or even a different school environment be preferable?

The results of the assessment are interpreted to identify next steps.

An Educational Assessment provides parents with a clear and comprehensive picture of their child’s’ academic skills, areas of strength and weakness. It is information all parents could use in order to determine realistic goals and ensure that the present learning environment is the right fit for their child.

Think about ending this school year by preparing for next. We know that students who start the year getting what they need, will demonstrate success and achievement in classroom. We can help you gather information now to ensure that in June of next year you can answer, “Yes” to all the questions.

Until our next lesson…

 

Today's Lesson - Critical Literacy: Do you Believe Everything You Read?

There is a new buzzword in education: Critical Literacy.  Isn’t it ironic that my colleagues and I questioned the validity, impact and importance of this new policy we were expected to inject into our practice…

Teachers do this innately – we question. We analyze and we interpret. We essentially practice Critical Literacy in all facets of our life - so why shouldn’t we be teaching this to our students?

This importance and severity of this issue did not become apparent to me until I began writing a blog.  I quickly learned that anyone with WIFI became an “expert” on what they were writing about.  I breathed a sigh of relief in knowing that future generations will not be as gullible. They will know that Critical Literacy matters and it will become their most valuable weapon when wading through the waters of social media.  Growing up without critical literacy in the information age is much like growing up without a skill during the industrial revolution.

“Students today experience a constant stream of ideas and information – online, in print and through electronic games and mass media.  They need skills to determine where to direct their attention and how to interpret messages and use them appropriately.” (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2004).

Critical Literacy is about the reader as a consumer. It is about being inundated with information, ideas and opinions and not just accepting it at, “face value.” The critical reader is always thinking about how the text relates to broader issues like: fairness, equity and social justice. Although some texts state multiple opinions and perspectives, it is the critical reader who must determine this and decide if there is bias and whose voices are present or absent.

 Critical literacy looks beyond the literal meaning of text. We must constantly check in with our children to see if they are thinking about what they’ve read in a critical way.  With so much information bombarding us 24/7, we need to set a high standard for what and more importantly, how, our children read.  As parents, we need to teach them not to believe everything they read or see.  

As we monitor their reading, here are some questions to help develop Critical Literacy skills:

What is the purpose of their reading? (Information? Enjoyment? To form an opinion?)
Why was this written? To inform? To make money? To influence our opinion?
Who is the author?
Whose perspective is it?
Is the text fair? Is there bias? What has been left out? Who (person or group?) has been left out?
Do you need to check information with another source?
Can you believe what you’re reading? How do you know?
Who is the target audience?
Did the author intentionally omit information? Why?

Practice “Critical Literacy” with your kids…you might also improve your literacy skills. 

Until our next lesson…

 

How can the Report Card be used to drive improvement, even if your child is meeting or exceeding expectations?

 It’s Report Card time, the perfect time for reflection and for planning. At this time in the year, parents should be able to look back and list things that were learned in each subject, as well as areas that could use some improvement or enrichment. In fact, your children should be the ones to tell you.  As a parent, you know your child the best.  Are you pleased with the list?  Do you think there could have been more items in the “learned” column?

Along with Report Cards, some boards have Interviews. Whether or not you are scheduling an interview, an effective strategy for determining the overall achievement of your child, is to colour-code the report card.   Use one colour for areas where your child has met the expectations; another colour for areas that exceeded expectations and a third colour for areas of concern. Bring the Report Card with you to the interview and be familiar with it.  Prioritize what you want to discuss and stay focused. Ask direct questions. The achievement falls into three categories: not meeting expectations; meeting expectation and exceeding expectations.  These are questions you should be asking:

For students not meeting expectations: What can you do at home to support what is being done at school?
What strategies has the teacher used to help improve achievement?
Do changes need to be made to the level of curriculum?
Is it a problem related to Learning Skills (Not being prepared? Not being attentive?
Is your child sitting in the correct place to optimize listening and attentio
In what ways does your child demonstrate learning?
Does your child require extra time to complete tasks?  Do they receive it?

For students meeting expectations: What can you do at home to support what is being done at school?
How will the teacher “stretch” their thinking?
Can your child demonstrate achievement in multiple ways? (i.e. “How else can you explain that? What is another strategy that you can use?”
Is your child reading a variety of genres? Is the teacher monitoring independent reading and encouraging variety
How is your child responding to literature? Are they able to answer questions that require inferencing and evaluative skills
Are they able to use a variety of math problem solving strategies?

For students exceeding expectations: What can you do at home to support what is being done at school?
Are they being encouraged to “think outside the box?”
Are they able to provide responses using a variety of methods (i.e. pencil/paper, oral presentation, computer generated, group and individual)
Are they developing critical thinking skills?  Can they ask (and answer) questions that require reflection and opinion
Can they transfer knowledge to the real world?

If your child has an IEP, it must be reviewed, now.  Firstly, is it working? Is your child meeting or progressing toward meeting expectations? Is it a modified program or is your child receiving accommodations? If the program is modified, do the expectations need to be revised? It’s never too early for your child to learn how to advocate for themselves.  They should know what they’re good at and the areas they struggle with. (They will know that without you telling them). Remind them that they are part of a “team” and each member (teachers, parents, students) has a responsibility. If appropriate, your child should always be part of the meetings that involve IEP’s.  They are the ones to provide the most valuable insight into what is working and what is not.

Study the Report Card and understand it.  Use the information to make a plan; choosing specific strategies that will provide the greatest opportunity for your child to be successful. Don’t let time pass and get to June and then say, “What did my child learn this year?”  That should be an ongoing question, one that has specific answers. 

Until our next lesson…

Social and Emotional Intelligence

How do teachers define, measure and evaluate student achievement?   

It is important for all parents to understand that teachers are required to not only report on academic achievement – they are also reporting on your child’s social and emotional intelligence and how they demonstrate this inside their classroom. Teachers assess, evaluate and report on achievement of curriculum expectations and on the demonstration of learning skills and work habits.

The good news is that in order to measure and evaluate this – they also must teach, support and encourage healthy social and emotional intelligence in all curriculum strands and expectations.

This can be a daunting thought for many parents as it may translate initially as, “Why do they evaluate my child’s behavior?”  It is important to note that the way a child presents is not the determining criteria that a teacher uses. Much like a child’s academic achievement, social and emotional intelligence can also be measured, taught and demonstrated. Understanding this process is just as important to the overall academic success of your child as understanding cognitive growth and development.

We are all familiar with the ways we measure ones cognitive abilities – we test. I.Q. tests measure one’s ability to learn or understand new situations, how to reason or form rational thoughts and how to apply that knowledge to a variety of scenarios. I.Q tests paint a picture of a person as a thinker, and then define ones intellect in a series of pre-determined categories. Simple? I think so.

Social and emotional intelligence therefore, is the ability to use both emotional and cognitive thought simultaneously. How can a child demonstrate social and emotional intelligence?  By practicing and using empathy, intuition, creative processing, resilience, leadership, integrity and interpersonal skills. Teachers are expected to work with their students to help them develop learning skills and work habits that are both achievable and measurable. When they are doing this they are helping your child develop their social and emotional I.Q.

Some sample behaviors that teachers look for are: Does the student take responsibility for and manage their own behavior?  Does the student devise a plan for completing work? Does the student use class time appropriately? Does the student accept various roles and an equitable share of group tasks? Does the student demonstrate an interest and curiosity in learning? Do they approach new tasks with a positive attitude? Do they seek clarification when necessary? Can they be reflective of their own learning?

As a student moves from grades 1 – 12 they develop, then consolidate these skills. The development of these skills is strengthened through the achievement of curriculum expectations. They are designed and taught to help students develop a positive sense of self, increase their capacity for using coping skills, develop and maintain healthy relationships, and use critical and creative thinking processes.

Developing social and emotional intelligence is critically important when considering the overall success of student achievement. 

Until Our Next Lesson…

Progress Reports

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We, Karen and Ann, (MIL/DIL) don't just love each other because we're family, but we like and respect each other. We often sit over coffee (and if she's lucky, warm, homemade chocolate chip cookies), discussing topics we are both passionate about: children, education and of course, family. Our talks are open and honest, and we often have differing views.  but, what we have in common is our passion for figuring out what makes our students "tick" and that we were both looking for our, "what's next?" 

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