Students Who Learn Differently Overseas
There are many areas of responsibility in the education of a student that overlap between the home and the school. Among these are communication, homework, motivation, and studying. Neither the parent nor the teacher can do it alone. Therefore it is essential for homes and schools to develop partnerships based on mutual cooperation and responsibility. When your student is attending a host-country school, this task can become daunting. But even an international school can prove difficult as you and your student with be dealing with an environment that contains many different cultures and expectations.
Both parents and teachers should remember when consulting with each other, this is a conversation, not a confrontation. Conferences can’t always take place at the most optimal time during the day or evening. Participants might be tired or hungry. Try to respect each other’s needs.
When planning teacher/parent conferences, be sure to send out your invitation well ahead of time. Everyone seems to be living such busy lives these days, and it is often necessary to schedule events far in advance. You can then follow up with a reminder closer to the day itself.
Be sure to include the length of time you expect the conference will last. This is especially true if other parents are waiting. If time seems to be running over, schedule an additional one at a later date.
Not all parents may realize that they have a student who might benefit from extra help, and because their child is performing poorly, they might be reluctant to attend conferences. These are the parents you most need to see.
Be well prepared. Have your records to hand as well as any examples of the student’s work. List your concerns and your encouragements regarding this child.
Try to make the atmosphere as welcoming as possible. You might even have a plate of cookies or candy available.
Insure that your conversations will be private.
If you and the teacher don’t speak the same language, try to bring someone along with you who is a friend and a native speaker, even if you feel comfortable speaking the language yourself. This can help to prevent misunderstandings based on differences in culture.
Help the teacher get to know your child. If you know your child’s learning and study styles (see METACOGNITIVE THINKING SKILLS) write these down. To this list be sure to add your child’s favorite things, like sports, computer games, fashion, or music. Also add least favorite things, like reading out loud, homework, sitting still, or cleaning up. Have copies available of any test results and/or report cards from prior years. Do not assume that these are automatically given to the teacher.
Be collaborative. As you go over your list with the teacher, try to work out some strategies together that your both can use at home and at school. See APPENDIX - Support for Teachers Worldwide - Phase 1 - The 203 Initial Strategies for suggestions. Copies can be downloaded from the FAWCO website. In this way, you may be gently stretching the teacher’s awareness of learning and attention problems. Organization is one of the greatest challenges that LD learners face, and it is vital that you have techniques worked out both at home and at school that will make time management and preparation easier.
Put it in writing. Whenever you have a conference or a correspondence with a teacher, put the results in writing, being sure to add the date and time. If you have information you want to share, be sure to give a copy to the teacher to avoid confusion, misunderstanding, and to aid as a reminder.
Communicate, communicate, communicate! Your first Parent-Teacher meeting should be just the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship. Use many different methods and decide what works the best for both of you. Emailing can be a great tool. You automatically have a copy of your communications, and you and the teacher can read or write it at your leisure. No need to make an appointment. No trying to have a hurried word in the hallway.
Participate in the classroom, if possible. Unlike most American and International schools, many host-county schools do not welcome parental involvement in the classroom, or even in the school. But if you are able to participate, such help is often most welcome, and in some schools where resources are scarce, it is even needed. And of course, join any parent-teacher organizations.
Sweeten the relationship. We are not talking about outright bribery here. However if the teachers do something special for your child, be sure to thank them. If they praise your child in class and the child comes home all aglow, let the teacher or coach know how much that meant. Come holiday time, a small gift might be appropriate. If the teacher is looking particularly nice some day, you might mention that.
Be even-tempered. Of course you want the best for your child, and in most all cases so do the teachers. However you have one student you are concerned about, while they have many. Appreciate how they must share their attention, and do everything you can to make their job as easy as possible.
Know your rights and responsibilities. When you enter a new school system, be sure to acquaint yourself with what is expected of you as a parent. Different schools and different cultures have different expectations. And should any conflicts arise with the system, know what recourses you would have at your disposal to remedy them. Does the school provide special help? What is the school policy on bullying? Can you get your child transferred to a different class? Hopefully no problems will arise, but if they do, it is good to know your options beforehand.
In addition to your child’s teachers, you need to have his or her needs known to other staff at school: the administration, guidance counselor, aides or tutors, the school nurse, cafeteria and custodial personnel, and the school bus driver. Anyone else who comes in contact with your LD learner should also be informed: pediatricians, psychologists, psychiatrists and extra-curricular activity leaders, like scout leaders, religious instructors, and sport coaches.
Usually the mother is the primary gatherer of information from all of the adults who interact with the student. She needs to keep good records, and she needs to be a good communicator.
First impressions are important. Each party should introduce him/herself. Make eye contact and shake hands if that is culturally acceptable.
Perhaps begin with a bit of personal detail.
Parents, be on time.
Teachers, try to stick to your schedule.
Jan Baumel when writing for schwablearning.org offered the following advice:
Teachers might like to touch on the following points, especially if this is the first meeting with the parents:
· Explain the goals of your course.
· Explain your expectations regarding your students.
· Explain the rules of the school.
· Explain any hidden curriculum issues.
· Try to find out how the student behaves outside of school:
o Extra-curricular activities / hobbies
· School & Classroom Organization
o Sports & Lunches
o Special Areas
o Seating Plan
o Daily Routines
· When and how progress reports and report cards are issued
· Homework Procedures and Expectations
· Classroom Student Management Plan, if you have one
· Home Support - How the parents can become involved.
· Ask your most important questions first.
· Avoid becoming angry or apologetic.
· Explain issues at home that could affect school performance.
· Changes in his health or behavior.
· Parental disagreement over his needs and education program.
· Family structure, including shared-custody, single-parent, or non-traditional households, if you feel it is having an impact on your child.
· Sibling rivalry — arguments and fights may occur between brothers and sisters because they think he gets more of your attention and/or has different rules.
· Your family's cultural traditions and customs if you feel it is having an impact on child-rearing, education, and learning disabilities (LD).
· Environmental pressures, including homelessness, marital problems, family illness or death, domestic violence, substance abuse, emotional abuse, and financial difficulties.
In his video, Beyond Fat City, U.S. special needs expert Richard Lavoie has the following to impart:
- The concept of “fairness”; being fair doesn’t mean that everyone gets the same thing, it means that he or she gets what they need; there is nothing so unfair as the equal treatment of unequals.
- In many instances, we are the first generation of parents and/or teachers who are aware of LD issues.
- We need to be able to distinguish between learned helplessness vs. laziness.
- If children exhibit attention-seeking behavior, give them some.
- Give kids a choice, and they will choose looking bad over looking dumb any day in the week.
- It isn’t the child is a problem, it’s the child has a problem.
REMEMBER: Kids go to school for a living. It’s their job.
Before you leave the conference, all participants should know what the next steps will be:
ü A date for the next meeting?
ü Weekly, monthly or midterm progress reports?
ü The setting up of a homework routine at home?
ü Do you have each other’s contact numbers?
Always end on a positive note. Don’t forget the “thank yous.”
Where is the student in all of this? In some school cultures the students are invited to sit in on the parent-teacher meetings. In others, they are not. If they are not, the parents should discuss the result of the visit with their child. And in some other schools, they are experimenting with student-led parent-teacher conferences.
Students Who Learn Differently Overseas
by Susan van Alsenoy, AWC Antwerp
Page created 10/29/99 EvE. Last updated 03/01/11 SvA.
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