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Getting Involved In You Child's School
Getting Involved In You Child's School
Getting Involved In You Child's School
Getting Involved In You Child's School
Getting Involved In You Child's School
Getting Involved In You Child's School
Getting Involved In You Child's School
Getting Involved In You Child's School
Getting Involved In You Child's School
Getting Involved In You Child's School
Getting Involved In You Child's School
Getting Involved In You Child's School
Getting Involved In You Child's School
Getting Involved In You Child's School
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Getting Involved In You Child's School

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Getting Involved in Your Child's School

Getting Involved in Your Child's School

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  • 1. 1 Getting Involved In Your Child’s School Elementary Schools: K – Grade 8 A Guide for Parents and Guardians The Toronto District School Board believes that education is a shared responsibility among parents, the community, students, staff and the Board, and that by working together we all contribute to the improvement of our schools and to the achievement of our students. 2004 - 2005
  • 2. 2 Contents Introduction .................................................................................... 3 Why Get Involved With Your Child’s School ................................................ 3 Parents And Teachers Working Together.................................................... 4 The Parent Teacher Interview ................................................................ 5 Parents, Students and Homework ........................................................... 6 If You Have A Concern ......................................................................... 7 Involvement in Your School Council ......................................................... 8 If You Wish To Volunteer In Your School .................................................... 10 Parent’s Role In The Special Education Process ........................................... 11 If You Need An Interpreter .................................................................... 12 Finding Out More About The School System ............................................... 13
  • 3. 3 Introduction Working together to help children become successful learners is an important responsibility for both parents and schools. The purpose of this handbook is to provide parents of children in elementary schools of the TDSB with a guide to help them to support their children’s education, by working in partnership with their schools. The suggestions in this handbook deal with various ways in which parents can work with their schools: from communication with their child’s teacher to helping their children at home, to participating in the school council to improve the school, and how to get more information about the school Board. These suggestions are drawn from the experiences of parents and schools in the Toronto District School Board. This handbook is aimed primarily at parents who need additional information and support in order to help their children become more successful in school. However we hope it will be a useful document for all parents. A resource of this limited size can only deal briefly with the various aspects of this important topic. We hope however that it will at least provide encouragement and support for parents and schools of the TDSB to work together for the benefit of all students in this diverse city. Why Get Involved With Your Child’s School When parents are involved in their children’s education, their children do better in school. They have higher grades, they attend school more regularly, they complete homework more consistently, and they behave better and are more motivated to succeed. When the parent and the teacher have good communication and work well together, they both help each other to do what is best for the child. The teacher understands the child better and becomes more aware of what the student is capable of, and what the student needs in order to be successful. The parent becomes more informed about what the teacher expects for the student, and will therefore be better able to support the student at home. The parent and the teacher can identify problems affecting the student as they arise, or before they develop into serious ones, and they can work together to solve them.
  • 4. 4 Many parents participate in school affairs beyond the classroom. When parents participate in school events, in the school council or in other school volunteer activities, they help to enrich the life of the school. They also help to improve the school by providing good information and advice to the principal and staff which helps them to do what is best for all students. Getting involved in their child’s education is not easy for many Toronto parents. Many parents have difficult job schedules and many important priorities in their daily lives. This leaves them with very little time to become regularly or consistently involved in their child’s school. In this situation, the most important thing for parents to do is to select that kind of involvement with their child and with the school that they can manage, and which allows them to provide support for their students when they need it. The responsibility of TDSB schools is to continue to provide the encouragement, support and opportunities for parents to work with teachers and with the school. You can help your child to be successful at school • praise your children and help them feel good about themselves • re-assure your children when they encounter difficulty or failure • talk regularly with your children about their school experiences • encourage your children to talk with you about any problems they have with relationships • help your children to set goals for themselves in their school work and in their home life • help your children to organize their time so that there is a good balance between school work, home responsibilities and their social & recreational activities • make sure that your children complete their homework; • read regularly to your children or have them read to you; it is a wonderful way for parents of children of all ages to encourage reading and to enjoy discussing what they have read together; • communicate with your children’s teachers to keep informed of the teacher’s expectations for the child and to resolve problems with your children
  • 5. 5 Parents and Teachers Working Together Other than the parent, the most important influence on a child’s life is the teacher. The teacher helps the child to get to know himself or herself and their world, to form positive relationships, and to acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes that the student will need to meet the challenges of life. The parent provides a similar role, but within the family and the community. When both the parent and the teacher work together as partners for the benefit of the child, the student achieves very good results. All teachers do not have the same level of experience in building a partnership with parents, just as all parents do not have the same level of experience in working with teachers and the school. However, the more teachers and parents work together, the more skilled they become in developing good working relationships with each other. Suggestions for Parents • ensure that you use every available opportunity to get to know your child’s teacher and to help the teacher to get to know you and your child better; • find out from the teacher what is the best way for communication and contact with the teacher and when such contact should happen; • attend meet-the-teacher nights, parent-teacher interviews and special meetings with the teacher that you are invited to; • ask the teacher to explain the classroom program and expectations for the students if you are not familiar with them; • ensure that you inform the teacher about any special circumstances that might arise with your child that might affect your child’s behaviour or attitude in class, e.g. change in routines, death in the family; • ensure that you share with the teacher any positive experiences or accomplishments that your child has been involved with outside the school; • focus on finding a solution when you meet with the teacher to discuss a problem with your child, not on blaming the teacher, the child or yourself; • offer to volunteer for a classroom activity where needed by the teacher, when you have the time and interest; • send a thank you note to the teacher when you experience something positive with your child resulting from the classroom program. • Don’t hesitate to share a good comment on your child’s work…if the teacher indicates ‘great work’ there is always space for the parent to reinforce
  • 6. 6 The Parent Teacher Interview Parent teacher interviews in elementary schools, sometimes called parent teacher conferences, are held twice each school year, at the end of November or early December, and once more in March. For many parents, the parent teacher interview may the only opportunity for the parent and teacher to meet each other to discuss the child’s progress at school, and what can be done to help the child do better. Teachers recognize that parents often come to the interview feeling very anxious, and may not know what to expect from the meeting. This happens especially when they think that their child has not been doing well at school, or has been having problems with their behaviour. The teacher will usually try to make things as comfortable as possible for the parent. Most parent teacher interviews last only about fifteen minutes and there is often not enough time to complete the discussion. Parents and teachers should therefore plan a follow-up meeting if they agree that there are important matters to be discussed further. Suggestions for Parents • If you would like you child to join you at the interview, ask the teacher; • In your preparation for the interview, make sure that you know what your child enjoys about school and what he or she finds difficult. • Ask your child to tell you if there is anything he or she wants you to discuss with the teacher. • Make a list of the questions you want to ask the teacher and take that list with you to the interview. • Be prepared to talk about your child’s interests outside of the school, any problems that might affect your child’s learning or what your child likes or dislikes about school. • Ask the teacher to tell you how your child gets along with his or her classmates. • Talk honestly with the teacher about any problems your child is having that you observe or that the teacher observes. • Take notes about your discussion with the teacher to help you remember the important things you discuss and any follow up plan which you and the teacher agree on. • Afterwards, share the results of the conference with your child. Stress the good things that were covered and be specific about concerns. Explain to your child any follow up plans that were arranged.
  • 7. 7 Parents, Students and Homework Homework provides an excellent opportunity for parents to understand the classroom program. Homework also helps parents and teachers to work together especially to help the child in areas which the child needs special support. In Toronto schools, students, teachers and parents each have responsibilities in the homework process. If you are not aware of the homework policy for your school, ask the teacher to explain it to you. If You Have A Concern Praise Should Be Specific For Example • “I really like how you’ve been working hard to complete your homework this week.” • “You did a great job on your story, I like the way you described the scene at the market and your printing is very neat and easy to read.” • “You drew a very interesting picture for your art project. Would you like to describe it to me?” Suggestions for Helping with Homework • Set up a study area in your home that is well-lit and free from unnecessary distractions. If you are not able to provide this space regularly in your home, try to arrange for alternate homework space in the home of a friendly neighbour whom you trust and who might have children in the same school. Sometimes students are more motivated to complete their homework if they are studying with a friend. • Help your child to plan a homework schedule and get him or her to stick to it. Every parent knows that children need to have time for other activities such as sports, watching TV, chatting with friends, or helping out with chores. It is important to make sure that your child knows how to leave enough time for homework. • Motivate your child with praise. Praising your child about completed homework can increase your child’s self-confidence and inspire your child to do his or her best work. • Keep copies of the work your child is proud of and post it on the wall or occasionally show it to other family members or friends who visit. • Ask your child’s teacher for advice on how you can help your child with study skills such as how to plan and organize their time for completing major projects; how to organize written reports; how to study for tests; how to take notes when reading a textbook.
  • 8. 8 If you have a concern about your child’s work, behaviour, attitude or the way they are feeling, you should speak to the teacher about it as soon as you can. Sometimes parents have a concern about the program in the child’s classroom, or about the teacher’s teaching methods, or about how a teacher has handled a particular situation involving a child. Most of these concerns can be resolved after meeting with the teacher. Sometimes the parent is not satisfied with the result of the discussion with the teacher and wants to speak to the principal or vice principal about it. When a parent brings a concern to the principal about a classroom program or situation involving the teacher, the principal may do any of the following: • advise the parent to discuss the concern directly with the teacher and resolve it at that level, if the parent has not yet discussed it with the teacher; • discuss the concern with the teacher and offer advice to the teacher where necessary, or respond back to the parent with an explanation; • meet with the teacher and parent together to resolve the concern. Sometimes a parent has a concern that requires the involvement of other Board staff in order to achieve a satisfactory result. For example, the principal may consult with the superintendent of education for the family of schools or other board staff before making a decision. This procedure is also followed where the parent brings a concern to the principal about a school policy, procedure or incident. In some cases, the principal determines that the concern relates to a broader school issue which is being discussed by the school council, and may advise the parent to discuss it at a school council meeting. At other times, a parent brings a concern about a school or Board matter directly to the superintendent of education, or the Director of Education or the school trustee or the Chair of the board who is also a trustee. In this case, the the Board official or the trustee may direct the parent back to the principal or may refer the matter to the superintendent of education or to other Board staff depending on the issue. Involvement In Your School Council Each school is required to have a school council. The council is an advisory committee made up of the principal, parents, teachers, support staff, students (secondary schools) and community members. The purpose of the school council is to provide a regular opportunity for its members to discuss how to make the school a better place of learning for students. Making the school a better place for students means discussing just about everything about a school: what students need in order to be successful; the learning goals of the school; the programs and activities that support students at school; the facilities and
  • 9. 9 resources that are available to help students and families; and of course ways of involving all parents in the life of the school. The council does not deal with personnel matters such as hiring and release of staff, nor does it deal with personal matters of individual students, staff or parents. The principal plays an important role in the council, because the principal brings important information about the school that the school council needs in order to play its advisory role effectively. The principal also provides guidance and support to the council so that it can work efficiently. Similarly, the school council plays an important role in the school because it provides the principal with the opinions and advice of parents to help the principal and staff to make school decisions that reflect the interests of the community as well as the needs of the students. Some school councils often find it difficult to involve more parents in their activities. This makes it difficult for the council to work well. As an individual parent, you can become more involved in your school council and therefore help your council to become more effective. If You Wish To Volunteer In The School Suggestions for Parents • Make sure that you have the name and telephone number of the Chair of your school council. The school council Chair is a parent of a child enrolled in the school who has been elected by other parents in the school. Some school council Chairs are willing to share their e-mail addresses with other parents in order to encourage communication; • if you are not able to attend meetings of the council, you should try to communicate directly with the Chair whenever you have an important concern or suggestion to make which relates to the business of the council; If you cannot reach the Chair, give the information to another school council member or to the principal; • let the principal know that you are interested in participating in the council and ask for suggestions as to how you might become involved. Do the same with the school council Chair; • attend meetings of the school council. School councils are required to have at least 4 public meetings per year, which must be open to all parents in the school. An effective school council will plan its dates of public meetings for the whole year and inform all parents of these dates. If you don’t know the dates of school council meetings, phone the school office to get the schedule of meetings; • most school councils will set the agenda for meetings in advance. Some will inform all parents of the agenda before the meeting. If you want to find out the items on the agenda, phone the school council chair or other member which the school council has designated to links with other parents in the school; • ask for a description of committees, projects or tasks set up by the council and volunteer to join one that you are interested in, or an activity that needs people to serve; above all, ensure that you give your opinion on matters of the school that you are interested in or concerned about at council meetings.
  • 10. 10 Many parents are able to support the school by helping the teacher or the principal with special activities or projects. Schools value their volunteer activities because they support programs and services and therefore help students to be successful. Volunteer activities also benefit volunteers themselves by providing them with opportunities to use their knowledge and skills. Volunteers also gain valuable experience and satisfaction from helping others. Volunteers cannot be used to perform activities that are the responsibilities of teachers or other board employees, but must be limited to extra support activities. Volunteers who work in the school on activities, which involve children, are required by law to undergo a criminal background check. This is done in order to ensure the protection and safety of students. As a volunteer in the school you are required to maintain confidentiality about any personal information about any student, staff or parent that you have access to. Volunteers must also be aware of the Board’s human rights and equity policies. The Board does not tolerate harassment or discrimination because of race, culture, language, gender or sexual orientation. Volunteers must also report any incidence of violence or abuse that they witness or are aware of. If you want to volunteer for a classroom or school activity at your school please speak to child’s teacher or your principal. Let your teacher or principal know about what you are interested in, and the kind of skills and experience you have, that you think would be helpful to the school. Sample volunteer activities to help the teacher or principal • reading with a small group of children who need extra help • arts and crafts activities • school plays or concerts • arranging material in the library • coaching sports activities • supervising children on field trips • serving as a speaker on topics related to the classroom program • serving as a skilled mentor to a student who needs extra support • collecting community materials for a classroom project • producing the school newsletter or handbook
  • 11. 11 Parents who serve on the school council and its activities are all volunteers. If you wish to support the council by helping with tasks or projects, please contact the Chair of the school council or the principal Parent’s Role In the Special Education Process Sometimes a parent or a teacher may observe that a child continues to have difficulty with his or her learning. The teacher or the parent may request that the school do an assessment of the student to determine whether there is a need for extra support for the student. This is done by a committee of staff at the school referred to as the “school support team”. The school support team collects information about the student to provide an assessment. This is discussed with the parent. The school team may decide that the student’s difficulties could be handled by some extra classroom or school support, or may recommend that the child be considered for special education services depending on the results of the assessment. If your child is being considered for special education services, you will be invited to participate in the process called an Identification, Placement and Review Committee (IPRC). This IPRC will decide whether or not your child has any special learning needs that require special support provided by specially trained teachers. There are many kinds of special needs that children have which affect their learning. These special needs are called “exceptionalities”. It is important to determine exactly what kind of exceptionality the child has, so that the right kind of program or service can be provided for the child. At least once each year, a committee of staff reviews the identification and placement of the child with the parent, and decides whether any changes are needed. Once your child is placed in a special education program, an Individual Education Plan (IEP) will be developed for your child. It is very important that you participate fully in this process. The Individual Education Plan will state the specific educational expectations for your child, and the specific programs and services that your child will receive. It will also state how your child’s progress will be assessed. If your child is 14 years or older the Individual Education Plan will outline a plan for transition to post-secondary opportunities, including work.
  • 12. 12 When you are invited by the school to an IPRC meeting, you will receive a Parent’s Guide to Special Education which provides a detailed description of the process and your role in it. If You Need An Interpreter About 45% of Toronto students come from families who speak languages other than English. There are over 80 languages represented in TDSB schools. Families of Toronto students come from almost 200 countries of the world. Many parents are often reluctant to communicate with teachers and principals because they don’t speak or understand English well enough. In some cases, there may be another adult family member in the home who understands English who can assist by translating written information sent home by the teacher or principal. Sometimes an English-speaking family member or friend is available to assist by accompanying the parent to a meeting at the school and acting as an interpreter. Schools however will attempt to provide the services of an interpreter to help parents and schools communicate with each other. Your role in the Special Education process includes: • Participate in all meetings of the IPRC. Notify the principal if you are unable to attend; • you may invite a support person to speak on your behalf or on your child’s behalf; • be present when the IPRC makes a decision about your child; • you will be provided with a written statement of the decision of the IPRC; • you will be consulted when the Individual Education Plan is developed for your child; • if you agree with the decision of the IPRC, you are required to sign the statement of decision; • if you do not agree with the IPRC decision, you may request a second meeting of the IPRC to discuss your concerns, or may appeal the decision by writing to the Director of Education at 5050 Yonge Street, Toronto, M2N 5N8, specifying the reasons for your disagreement.
  • 13. 13 If you are invited to attend a meeting at the school and you are unable to bring an interpreter with you, please inform the teacher or principal. The school will arrange where possible, an interpreter for the meeting. Finding Out More About The School System The TDSB is a complex organization made up of 22 elected school board trustees who are responsible for final policy decisions of the Board and an administration led by the Director of Education, Associate Director of Education and their senior team of supervisory officers called superintendents of education. TDSB schools are divided into 24 administrative areas called families of schools. The purpose of these administrative areas is to ensure that services which support schools are provided efficiently and equitable for the whole school system. Each Family of Schools is led by a Superintendent of Education who works closely with principals of the schools in the Family to manage the provision of services to students. The Board also employs many support staff in schools and administrative offices who manage and provide the services necessary to support this large and complex school system. The Board’s 22 trustees are elected by eligible voters in the city of Toronto every 3 years in the municipal elections which take place in November. Each trustee represents an electoral area of the city called a ward. There are approximately 25 schools in each ward. In addition to regular communication with individual parents, trustees periodically meet with school council representatives and other community members in their ward to share information and consult with them on educational topics. In 1998, six independent school boards operating in what was at that time called Metro Toronto, representing the former cities of Scarborough, North York, East York, York, Etobicoke and the old city of Toronto, joined together to form one school board, the Toronto District School Board. The TDSB is the largest school district in Canada serving about 280,000 students in 565 schools in this culturally, socially economically diverse city of Toronto. The TDSB has approximately 30,000 employees including about 18,000 teachers.
  • 14. 14 Trustees make the final decisions about education for all Toronto students and adult learners in the Board’s schools and programs. Meetings of the full Board of Trustees are held once each month. Trustees also participate regularly as members of the Board’s sub-committees which are called Standing Committees, and other special committees. Parents and members of the community may request an opportunity to address the trustees at Standing Committees or special committees on any matter on its public agenda. Board meetings are held on evenings at the Board’s headquarters at 5050 Yonge St, and are open to the public. It is very important to know the name of your school trustee. You can get the name of your trustee from your child’s school office or by phoning the number below, or through the TDSB web site: www.tdsb.on.ca. For more information about the TDSB, contact: • Your school office • The office of the superintendent of education for your school (telephone number available from your school office) • Your school trustee (telephone number available by calling 416-397-3061, 397-3063, or 416-393-8809) • Or visit the board’s web site at www.tdsb.on.ca

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