Beyond the conference: Other ways to stay actively involved in your child's education


Communication between families and educators is key to understanding and supporting students in their learning and progress.

In Berkshire County, various schools regularly offer opportunities for parents and guardians to see how the school works, and offer things like parent workshops and other resources and opportunities for improving communications.

In a newsletter sent home to parents from Egremont Elementary School in Pittsfield, Mass., the school suggests parents and guardians take an active role in the conference.

"The two most important people responsible for your child's education are the teacher and yourself — if you take an active role in the conversation, you may be able to give the teacher some insights into how best to work with your child, and you may learn information about your child that the teacher might not have thought to tell you."

Planning can help make the meeting less intimidating, and easier to talk about issues or any miscommunications too.

Before arriving to the conference, some things to think about include:

• What do you want to know?

• What would you like to share with the teacher?

• Do you have any specific concerns?

Paul Lindenmaier, head of Berkshire Country Day School in Lenox, Mass., said there's also a lot of writing and research about effective communications between families and schools. He recommends the book, "The Essential Conversation: What Parents and Teachers Can Learn from Each Other" (2004) by Harvard University sociologist Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot.

Before the conference is over, make sure you have the teacher's direct contact information, and talk about keeping in contact or following up on any issues that you as a parent-teacher team are working to resolve.

Many school districts also provide special programs and services and liaisons to work with families of children with special needs or are English language learners. Your child's physician can also make recommendations for parents to support mental and physical care and activity to promote learning.

Farmington River Regional School District in Otis also promotes other ways, beyond conferences, that parents can engage with the school community to maintain healthy and positive ties with your child's school and classroom.

"Schools, families and communities can interact in numerous ways, from parent-teacher conferences, to parents serving on local school councils, to community health services provided on school grounds, to after-school programming for children, youth, and adults," according to Farmington's "Community Connection" web page.

Other community organizations, like South Berkshire Kids, the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, Child Care of the Berkshires and the Family Resource Center can also offer support for parents.

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