The first contact in any relationship sets the tone for the future.
Here are some examples of the types of first contact a parent may have with a school or teacher. The question is... how will each of these influence the future parent-teacher/school relationship?
The Phone Call
"Is that Mrs. Tompkins?"
"This is Silent Street Public School. There has been an incident with Sam."
Ker-thump, ker-thump, ker-thump (Mrs. Tompkins' heart beat)
"We would like you to come in and meet with Mrs. Ellison, the principal. How soon can you make it?"
"Uhm... I am at work." Mrs. Tompkins is still feeling a little stunned.
"Mrs. Tompkins, this is very important."
"What kind of incident?" Mrs. Tompkins is recovering.
"It is probably best that the Mrs. Ellison talks to you about that. Can you make it in half an hour?"
"Uhm. I suppose I could - "
"Thank you. Come to the front office. Bye, now."
The parent-teacher night
Don and Rose walk into the room where they are met by Lee's teacher, Mark. Mark greets them and they sit down together.
After some small talk about the weather, Mark begins to ask questions:
"Are there any concerns about Lee's reports? Do you have any questions about how he may be doing?"
"No, we are pretty happy with how he is going. He loves coming to school, and he is doing really well at Maths. Though he doesn't seem to be making friends very easily."
"Yes, there have been some social difficulties. He reacts aggressively and can be rather loud within the classroom. And he also has problems with literacy activities, fine and gross motor activities."
"I have been doing some reading, and I am wondering if you have considered getting Lee assessed for Aspergers or ADHD."
"Oh." Stunned silence.
"It's just that I think there is something wrong... no, I mean different... about Lee that we need to have addressed."
From there the meeting doesn't go well. Lee's father becomes silently hostile, and Lee's mother is visibly upset.
The meeting ends abruptly, with Lee's father saying, "I think we would know if there was anything wrong with Lee. He has always been unique. But that's just Lee!"
We are looking for volunteers to help in various capacities around the school. Please contact us if you can help us with any of the following:
- Morning reading groups
- Morning maths groups
- Canteen duties
- Excursion supervision
A classroom visit
The first time she met the person she thought was going to be Ashley's teacher was at the orientation day. It wasn't so much a meeting, as an introduction, because there were a number of other parents and they were really only there to observe and integrate their children into a classroom for some "practice".
Marianne thought was a great idea, but it was over so quickly. And while she had been able to see the teacher at work, she wished she had had more time to talk to the teacher. She wanted to know more about the type of person who was going to include Ashley in the classroom.
Only, when she dropped Ashley off for the first day of school the teacher was not the one she had met previously. After a brief, "Hello" it was time to leave Ashley in the teacher's care.
"We can have your child in our school, but we do have some concerns about how well we can support them. Have you explored all the other options? There is the special school in ..."
"We want Nat to be in an inclusive classroom. We decided that was important. And the special school is an hour's drive away, and all Nat's siblings are here at your school."
"Welllll, we'll see what we can do. We will need to talk to our Kindergarten teacher...."
A Learning Support Team meeting
"We are just ringing to let you know that there will be a planning meeting for your child at 4pm on Wednesday. Feel free to come along if you are able."
"What is a planning meeting?"
"Well, for children who have special needs we have meetings to identify what support will be needed, where we can get it and how this will be used in the classroom. Parents have a right to come to the meeting."
"Oh. OK. I will be there."
Mr. Bellick turns up on Wednesday, walking in to sit across the room from the principal, the teacher, the head teacher for welfare and the integration support teacher from the local Department of Education office.
An unexpected encounter
"Hi, Ms. Johnson. I am Miss Carter. Hello, Jay! Why don't you go and sit with Jo - just here. So how are you feeling, Ms. Johnson?"
"Oh, I'm a little nervous."
"I am sure Jay will be fine. Is there anything you are particularly worried about?"
"It's just that, well, Jay doesn't really know anyone here. And he is very shy and gets anxious if he doesn't know what is coming next."
"That's good to know. I always try to warn my class of what is coming next, and I have a picture timetable of what we are going to do in class. Is there anything he particularly likes to do? Or anything that will help if he is anxious or upset?"
"He usually needs a nice quiet space. He loves puzzles. We often get him to go do puzzles if we see he is getting anxious."
"Great. Well, we will be sure and call you if there are any problems. But I shouldn't think we will need to. And I have this little communication book where I will write a little comment about his day, and you can put any comments or questions, if I don't get to catch up with you after school."