Twice each year, in November and in March, our school schedules parent teacher conferences. These conferences offer a rare opportunity for true collaboration between home and school. Even including the Montessori Enrichment Seminars and our Coffee Club, I spend the vast majority of my time with the children, typically only seeing the parents for a few minutes at drop off or pick up. We may have the odd conversation on the fly, or write notes to each other on the daily “care plans” we exchange, but anything more substantial is often hard to come by. So I really look forward to these set aside conference times, where the parents and I are able to exchange information, ask questions and address concerns about the individual children we love and serve.
Some express surprise at the idea of conferences for children so young. Honestly, there is so much going on for these little ones, its sometimes hard to get all the information into our half hour meeting time slot. To honor our time constraints and everyones busy schedule, I try to be as organized as possible. Rather than listing materials the child is using, or counting new words or skills with an achievement scale, I offer something more Montessori specific. When I first started at Monarch, I created an observation tool that has served our conferences really well. It has since been adapted for use in the Infant and Primary environments, and helps to frame the discussion between the parents and their child’s teacher.
Between birth and about six years of age, children experience “inner guides,” or, powerful drives which prompt them toward healthy development. Maria Montessori called these drives the “Sensitive Periods.” Because of their sensitive periods, a child is naturally drawn to specific activities at the time when he or she is most capable of gaining benefit. The behaviors of the child offer us the biggest clues to their needs. A large portion of my role of head teacher is to observe the children’s behavior during our open work cycle, interpret my findings, and come up with ways to meet their dynamic needs of the moment. Prior to each conference, I review my recent observation notes on the specific child, and enter applicable behaviors into the sensitive period observation tool. This allows me to offer parents a clear and up to the minute picture of their child’s needs and development. As these forms may be taken home by the parents for later review, we can be a little more flexible in our discussion, and the conversation can range much farther than it would have otherwise, a benefit to all of us. We may focus on diet, social behavior, potty training, binky reduction, or any other concern forefront in either of our minds, and not feel that we have gotten “off topic”. I greatly enjoy these conferences, and see them as a fantastic opportunity to connect and regroup with the parents, that we may forge ahead with clarity in our common goal of promoting the development of their children.