Friday, July 10, 2015

How to Talk to Parents about Behavior Concerns

Recently I had the opportunity to guest post for PreK-Pages about how to have Tough Conversations with parents and guardians regard behavior and social concerns.  

Sometimes we can't even put our finger on what the concerns are, we just know that there are things that make the child stand out in the classroom, and behaviors and social corks that are worrisome as they embed the learning of the child and possibly their peers. 

In other situations, we witness significant behavior on a daily basis that sends chills down our backs and all we want to do is get help for the child and their family.   But as chilling as the behavior maybe, we know that it will be heart breaking to talk about with the family.   No parent or guardian wants to hear concerns about their child's behavior or inability to interact socially with peers.  We want our children to have friends and be the perfect little angels we dreamt them to be when we held them in our arms for the first time. 

With this sentiment in mind, in my Pre-K Pages guest post, I suggested that teachers stay objective and keep the emotions out of the tough conversations!  But this is easier said than done! Why? Because. . . 

So how do we stay objective, my suggestion on the guest post was through data collection, so I began searching for data sheets that shared behavior and social concerns in a practical way. As many of you know there are a variety of data sheets out there but I couldn't find exactly what I had in mind.  I wanted a form that serve the purpose of helping parents and staff reflect on the impact a child's behavior is having on the classroom or how a students behavior is different from their 'typically' developing peers. Which got me thinking with a little tweaking a form I created for one our TASN-ATBS's early childhood trainings could be just the ticket!

Here is how it works.  On page one list your students' names and their information: their date of birth, how old they are in months and years, how many years they have been in preschool, and if they are on an Individualized Education Plan. 

The order in which you write your students' names on page one will assign each student a number. NOTE: I encourage you to be a little random about how you list your students so there is no way parents can calculate where their child's peers are in the line up.  (For example they maybe able to do so if you write the students' names in alphabetical order by first or last name.)  

On page two fill in the activities that take place throughout your school day in the left hand column.  In this section, I encourage you to write every activity that might cause students trouble not just the major activities.  For example, activities that often cause students issues are transitions and wait times:  waiting their turn at the sink, preparing to go home, transition to school from home, cleaning up after play time, and lining up to come in from recess. 

In column two, write the expectations that go along with each activity.  For example, at arrival time students are expected to put their belongings in their cubbies, wash their hands, check their job and sign in, while during snack preparation they are expected to leave group when told, wait in line, wash their hands, get their snack materials and sit in their assigned seats.
(If you need more than one page to enter classroom activities feel free to click page three
in the document you will get access to at the end of this post.) 

Then in columns C through V, rate your students' performance as + for meets expectations, E for emerging, or - for does not meet expectations in each area under their assigned number.

(In the example above I choose to take data on two different collection days using the same form but
 different colors of ink, this strategy could be used to monitor progress over time and make adjustments as needed.) 
NOTE: This is not about sizing up one child against another.  All children progress and develop in different ways and at different rates.  There may be several three year olds and even some four year olds that do not meet all the expectations or are emerging in some areas.  For that matter, you don't even have to show ratings of other students, the expectations of each activity and the student of concern's ratings in each area will tell parents and guardians a lot. 

One thing you might considering adding to the bottom of page three is your classroom rules, because each activities' expectation as shared above do not directly address each classroom rule specifically, giving you just one more way to open conversations about following classroom rules, and using good manners with data instead of opinion statements

NOTE: These forms are not normed or formalized and should not be used for IEP data or student files.  They are just a teacher friendly way for you to think about what students are having trouble, in what areas and open some conversations and reflections about what parts of the day a child or children does really well with and what parts of the day are more challenging. 

If you do decided to show the whole chart, remember it is not about picking out the flaws of one specific student. It is about showing that the expectations and demands of the classroom are age appropriate as most students the child's age are able to perform the skills expected.  It takes the emotions out of it, showing data regarding the student's performance during different activities throughout the day in relation to same aged peers helps show the concerns you have and opens up a conversation about next steps. 

That being said if you choose to use this form to start a tough conversation be sure to close the conversation with next steps and a plan for helping children be more successful in the areas they are struggling.  You don't want parents to walk away feeling helpless or all along. 

If you need some ideas and strategies to help you with the planning process feel free to click on some of my favorites below or just do a little Considerate Classroom blog surfing.

Click here if you would like to download the Student Performance Assessment and let me know how it goes below. 

Best wishes to you and the families and children you serve!   

1 comment:

  1. That’s great idea!! I was also looking for the ideas to tell about kid’s behavior to their parents. Thanks for helping me out. Now I’ll follow these tips to tell about the behavior of my Phoenix kindergarten students.