It’s conference time at many of our schools and I want to encourage you to think of them in a new way, especially if you have a visual learner or child with ADD or ADHD. The teacher’s feedback on how your child is doing in the classroom is very important to hear, but there also needs to be a conversation on who your child is as a visual learner. Teachers teach the subjects and curriculum dictated by their district, but the way it’s implemented can vary teacher to teacher. Visual learners, and kids with ADD, are very bright and able but traditional teaching methods don’t always reflect that. Some teachers adapt their methods for nontraditional learners, but not all can or do. Conference time can be a great time to work together to find ways for your child to thrive.
Here are some things for you and the teacher to talk about… your visual learner:
Find out what’s going well. Too often the focus for visual or ADD kids is the struggle. So, be sure to start the conversation talking about your child’s gifts and strengths. Then if there are any challenges, you can interpret them from his place of strength not deficit. Good for you to hear and if there are any classroom struggles – good for teacher to remind herself about what’s working too.
What subjects are challenging? Math, reading, writing and test taking are the most common subjects visual and ADD kids struggle with. If this is where your child is struggling most, there are ways to help, but start by understanding what’s going on now. For my grandson first grade math was a disaster. He hated it and consistently under performed. Turns out their math curriculum was all worksheets and timed tests, the worst way to teach math to visual kids. So, once you hear where challenges are, dig a little deeper into how it’s being taught.
How is the classroom set up? Imagine your child in this classroom. Where does he sit? Is he close enough to the teacher or further away? Our visual kids are distractible – their position in the classroom can help or hurt. Visual kids must see what they’re learning. Be sure they are well positioned to see the board and teacher. Ask about gym, art and music class. These are subjects visual kids need and do well in. How often are they happening? Recess too. Do the kids get to move around during the day?
Who is the teacher? I love teachers. I think teaching really is the most noble profession. Get to know your child’s teacher. Think of her, or him, as an ally working with you for your child’s success. They have the keys to the kingdom. They’ve seen a lot of kids and know their way around what the school and district have to offer. But first find out of you’re on the same team. Over the years our family has had teachers who loved every kid, others that were clearly annoyed by us ‘creative types’ and others that were more disorganized than our kid was. Understanding who they are and how they feel what they expect will help you navigate a more successful school year for all of you.
How is homework organized? The homework conversation is usually focused on the child’s performance, but it can be helpful to better understand the organization process, so the kid can succeed. Ask where assignments are written, when students write them down and where. If the process is cumbersome and your child can’t keep up, they’re already two steps behind before they even get home. The teacher may be able to provide a print out, or help getting things written in their assignment notebook. Be sure you’re using an assignment book so there’s one central place you and child can refer to once at home.
Tell the teacher who your child is as a visual learner. This is a big one. Our schools are focused on left- brain language-based learning and use testing to measure results. This is completely contrary to how visual kids learn. But school is school, and our kids need to know how to read, write and take tests. With 30 kids in their classroom it’s easy for them to overlook the finer details of individual students – there’s a lot to do! So speak up and advocate for your child. Not sure how? I’ve got some tips in my article on parent advocates.
Always remember, Parent Teacher Conferences are meant for you to get to know the teacher and classroom, and for the teacher to get a better understanding of your child. But you can request additional conferences throughout the school year, if needed. Remember – you’re on the same team. The teacher wants your child to be successful. Keep the lines of communication open and friendly while you work together to develop the practices that work best.
Do you have some tips on communicating with your child’s teacher? Share them in the comments below.