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Every child deserves an environment conducive to learning, irrespective of their social status or learning difference. A quality environment exists only when there is effective collaboration with parents. Some parents may come to us with concerns regarding challenges they believe their child experiences. It is important for teachers to understand that these concerns are coming from a place of deep-rooted love, worry, and affection for their child. It is important to remember that, together, we are a team, and our goal is the best outcome for the child.

That being said, we will undoubtedly come across some ‘interesting’ situations during our school year. During such times, we need to remind ourselves to have an open mind and seek opportunities for learning. It is vital to make a conscious effort to check in with our reactions and find a time that is suitable for both parents and teachers to meet.

Parent-teacher conferences are a perfect way to work together for the betterment of children and set them up for success. This is the time to build stronger relations with each other. The first conference is always impactful and sets the tone for the rest of the school year.

At our school, the first parent-teacher conference is in October. You can find below some of the concerns and comments that were expressed during these conferences. Each conference is about 25 minutes long. Below, I have tried to compile the main points of our conversation. The children’s names have been changed for privacy reasons, but the concerns and scenarios are real.

Does Ziana still flip her letters? Is that normal? How can we help improve her penmanship?

Yes, it is a normal developmental process for preschoolers to reverse some of their letters and numbers. Children in their early childhood years are busy taking in information, and they are learning the correct orientation of letters and numbers. The letters and numbers most commonly observed to be reversed are b, d, p, q, and 2, 5, 9, 3. It is normal to see this reversal being carried on to Grade 1.

Some of the common reasons for reversals are directional confusion, lack of spatial-perceptual orientation, and, lagging visual discrimination skills. Many exercises from the Practical Life, Sensorial, and pre-Language shelves help children with visual perceptual skills, directionality, and orientation. As she continues working with these exercises we can certainly see improvement.

To improve penmanship, first, we need to make sure the child’s visual acuity is within the normal range. The next step is to observe how the child is holding the writing tool, and if she is seeing her own writing. We observed that Ziana is only partially seeing what she is writing, as her hand covers most of it.

We have shown her to keep her paper at a 45-degree angle. Ziana is practicing writing in this style, and we have already seen great improvement in her penmanship.

The teacher’s observation was that when Ying is building words with the Moveable Alphabet, she cannot process and discriminate between i and e sounds. She spells nit for net, rid for red. How can we, as parents, support her at home to improve her auditory discrimination skills?

Ying speaks Mandarin at home. When she started school last year she did not speak English. She has picked up a lot since, and by the end of the last school year, she was communicating in English. She had to pause and think for a word to complete a sentence. But since the beginning of this school year, Ying has been communicating confidently and fluently in English. She is also able to analyze and break down the sounds in a word and build phonetic words. We are extremely happy and proud to see her progress. Because of the Mandarin dialect, she stresses more on some vowels. We have advised parents to write down the vowels i and e and help Yin enunciate. We also asked parents to write three-letter words with i and e vowels and to have Yin stretch out the vowel as she blends and reads so that she is able to hear herself.

Language development in an early childhood classroom is a process of integration of senses. It is a step-by-step process that comes naturally to many children. When a child sounds out a word, the word is translated from the auditory message to the visual image of the letter system. Then she uses the motor system of the hand to build the words with the Moveable Alphabet or write them. It is a very complex process, and at any point, the child may mis-process resulting in incorrect spelling. Montessori Language exercises are designed specifically to provide this multi-sensory experience for children.

How to help the child be independent and intrinsically motivated to choose more challenging work?

Charlie seems to avoid challenging work and prefers to sit and observe his friends, unless prompted by a teacher. It is okay for children to observe in Montessori classrooms as they learn so much through observation. But since this is Charlie’s kindergarten year, we expect him to be choosing work that challenges him and take up leadership roles. After meeting with his parents, it has been noted that Charlie does a lot of worksheets at home and he is also enrolled in at least five extracurricular classes. Charlie is showing all the symptoms of work overload and fatigue. He is not motivated to do any work because of this exhaustion. We have advised his parents not to provide worksheets at home, as this is clearly confusing Charlie with some of the concrete work he is doing at school. We have also asked them to cut down some of the extracurricular activities.

How to help my son get over social anxiety? He comes home and says no one wants to play with him and the teachers are not helping him either. Help us understand the situation, please.

Before answering the question, here is a brief description of Adrian. Adrian is a 4 1/2 year-old boy. This is his very first experience in a school environment. Due to the pandemic, his parents opted to home-school him. His mom had expressed anxiety over Adrian removing his mask and eating lunch with his friends indoors and even requested if it was okay for him to sit outside the classroom to have lunch.

As a teacher, I sensed a noticeable amount of stress and anxiety in the mom. It is essential to acknowledge the parents’ feelings for their children. Once they understand that we are here for the children and want to provide a secure and safe environment for them, we start to gain their trust. Now, Adrian’s mom was open to suggestions.

We typically give 6 weeks for children to normalize and get accustomed to the new environment. During that period, Adrian preferred to sit next to teachers and talk while watching his friends play. We wanted Adrian to feel safe and trust the adults in charge of him and allowed him to be beside teachers. Once the 6 weeks period passed, we noticed Adrian still preferred to hang out with adults. Now it was time for us to encourage him to venture out and make friends. It was vital for us to see how he takes on this challenging task. While the adults were there to support him, it is an important life skill for him to master on his own. Even though at first it felt like no one was helping him, once he crossed the hurdle, he was able to make many friends and enjoy playground time. Today, Adrian is a happy boy who doesn’t shy away from making new friends.

My child wants to please all his friends and sometimes can take in some unpleasantries and smile through it, all the while hurting inside.

David is a sweet boy who has lots of energy to expend throughout the day. He was transferred from another class last year to our room. He made a smooth transition and has made lots of friends in his new environment. However, he has to be redirected throughout the day to make the right choices and use impulse control. Sometimes he can get himself involved in situations involving multiple children, where they tend to use his name upfront to get away from troubling situations (e.g., “David pushed me.”)

As a Positive Discipline Classroom Educator, I am extremely careful not to label children. I also understand why children tend to call out David’s name a lot due to his previous history of being labeled. I sat the boys down and talked to them about friendship, honesty, and integrity. While some are trying to seek attention (negatively) by placing their friend upfront for things he hasn’t done, it is vital for David to be emotionally strong and know that he doesn’t need to soak up everything his friends are pouring on him. He is made aware that he has a choice and it is up to him to exercise these choices. He is doing extremely well in the classroom’s structured environment. However, he needs reminders when he is with other groups to practice impulse control or in our very special words: “Listen to your peace light and let it shine brighter.”

When Emma is asked to redo work or make a challenging choice, she always insists that her mom wants her to do it that way. We want to know a little more about how you handle such situations at home.

while it is a beautiful sight to see Emma have a strong, secure attachment to her mom, we also want to ensure that she is not heading toward an insecure attachment or reflecting her mom’s emotions.

Emma is a diligent and hardworking student. She does her work very meticulously. However, when she is asked to redo work or re-write letters and follow the correct orientation, she is a bit hesitant.

It is important to introduce constructive criticism to children in their formative years. It is a means by which we learn from our mistakes and find strategies to determine ways to better ourselves. At the same time, it is also important for children to differentiate negative criticism from constructive criticism. With constructive criticism playing a vital role in childhood, it is important for children to learn to take positive feedback and deliver them graciously.

Emma has come a long way. She is open to correcting or redoing her work now at the same time confident enough to let us know if she wants to do it now or later. She knows that we give the freedom to choose between now and later as long as the work is taken care of independently. 