a red apple on top of three textbooks on a desk with grey background
“The most accurate predictors of student achievement in school are not family income or social status, but the extent to which the family creates a home environment that encourages learning, communicates high yet reasonable expectations for the child’s achievement, and becomes involved in the child’s education at school.”
National PTA, 2000

Parent-teacher conferences can make parents and kids (and teachers!) feel anxious, but it helps when we feel prepared. Like all good conversations, parent-teacher conferences are best when both people talk and listen. This meeting is the time for you to find out about your child's progress in school and ask their teacher to show you information about your child's attendance, grades and test results. And to find out if your child is meeting school expectations and academic standards. This is also time for the teacher to find out how your child is at home. When you tell the teacher about your child's abilities, interests, needs, and dreams, the teacher can help your child more. 

Here are some ideas to help you prepare for your next parent-teacher conference.

Main points for a successful meeting

  • Keep the emphasis on learning. 
  • Review samples of your child’s work.
  • Listen carefully and take notes.
  • Ask questions.
  • Respect the conversation, stay calm.
  • Follow up if an action was decided upon.

Remember, your child absolutely deserves to receive the attention, commitment and support they need to be successful in school. And the parent-teacher conference is one valuable way you can ensure this is happening.  

Before the meeting

  • If you cannot attend the meeting on the day and time that it's scheduled, inform the teacher and request to reschedule.
  • Talk to your child about how they feel at school and how they think school is going.
  • Ask your child to share with you what they want to accomplish this school year.
  • If possible, set some learning goals together that you can share with their teacher.
  • Review homework, tests and grades (if you have them).
  • You will likely receive both positive feedback on your child's progress and feedback on areas that need improvement. Be prepared to ask questions about ways you and the teacher can help your child with some of their challenges.
  • If needed, request an interpreter beforehand; your child should not act as interpreter during the meeting.
  • Make a list of questions based on how your child is doing at school (see below for some sample questions).
  • If possible, send a note to the teacher with your questions ahead of time so they can prepare as well.

During the meeting

  • Thank the teacher for meeting with you.    
  • Ask about your child’s academic development. 
  • Ask for evaluations and samples of your child’s work.
  • Ask for ideas on how to help your child at home.
  • Ask for explanations of anything you do not understand.
  • Ask the teacher how they will contribute to your child’s success.
  • Respectfully discuss differences of opinion.
  • Pay attention to the teacher’s comments and take notes on what is said and planned.
  • In many cases we do not have the precise words to respond to the teacher’s comments in the moment. It is fine to "sleep on it" or get a second opinion before making decisions/agreements.
  • Focus your comments on academics. If your child engages in behaviors that are affecting their learning or achievement, ask the teacher for a different meeting to discuss.
  • Ask that the school notify you as soon as possible about any inappropriate behaviors. It is important to your child’s future that you take action immediately.
  • Likewise, ask the teacher not to wait until the parent-teacher conference to tell you about your child's performance.

After the meeting

  • Reflect on what topics were reviewed and what topics need a follow-up.
  • Make a plan to follow up on what you and the teacher agreed upon to help your child be successful in class.
  • Set a date to meet with the teacher again and keep in touch with the teacher.
  • Talk with your child.
  • Start working on an action plan or family agreement.
  • Learn more about the education system, the school curriculum, and the tests your child must take (the library can help!).

Possible questions for parent-teacher conferences
1. How is my child doing in your class? What are their grades?
2. Is my child attending a special class, program or group? Why? What is the purpose of having my student there?
3. Is my child on grade level for reading? What about math, science and writing? Do you have any recommendations for my student to improve their learning? (Note: If tutoring is mentioned, please check out our post on free tutoring resources.)
4. What do you suggest we do if we are at home and my student gets “stuck” on homework?
5. What are the most important and complex (content-related) ideas my child needs to understand by the end of the year? 
6. How do you measure academic progress?
7. Has my child failed to return any homework or project?
8. Does my child participate and express their opinions in class?
9. Overall, do you have any concerns about my child’s academic progress?
10. What are the best school or district resources that we should consider using as a family to support our child in the classroom?
11. What can I do to help you and my child?
12. What is the best way for me to reach you?

This article was written for our Family Newsletter, available in English and Spanish. Please sign up here and you can email us at learning@multcolib.org with any questions.

young person in a classroom holding a sign that reads, "Stop the bullying"
October is the perfect time to explore all the things we can do to prevent bullying, especially now that kids are back in school.  October is also World Bullying Prevention month, when we focus on promoting a kinder, more accepting and inclusive society.  According to StopBullying.gov, there are a few simple things we can do to prevent bullying in our own communities, including:

Multnomah County Library staff would like to add:

  • Reading books and resources that show kids ways to deal with bullies and bullying behavior.         

To help with this last point, we’ve pulled together a few reading lists (below).  We also asked library staff to tell us about their favorite books that address bullies and bullying. Here's what they have to recommend:    

“I really love Bob Staake's Bluebird,” says Carolyn from Woodstock Library. “It is really sad but beautiful and poignant.” Alisa from Albina Library agrees. “It's so beautiful. I have cried on more than one occasion looking at that book.”

Alisa also recommends The Boy in the Orange Cape by Adam Ciccio. “It’s a heartwarming story about how the power of empathy and kindness begins with one person, then quickly spreads out to help support those in need.”  

“I really love The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld,” says Ekatrina at Holgate Library. “It has a powerful message about holding space for a child — or anyone who has faced a devastating loss — to process it in their own way, in their own time. And I love how in the end there is a magnificent sense of excitement and hope.”

“My favorite is Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems,” says Sarah from Central Library. “It helps you realize to not take a bully's behavior personally and how you can disarm them with vulnerability. It's also super funny, fun to read, and has some great alternatives for swears.”

SyNova from Kenton Library recommends I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoët.  “It's a wordless picture that kids and adults can have heartfelt dialogue about the different emotions throughout the book about kindness and stand up for others that are being bullied in front of them while at school and how that would be like to me when going back to school this year.” Kate from Youth Services also loves this one. “It shows that even small acts of kindness can make a difference to the person being bullied and can give others the courage to do something too.”  

Jen from Cataloging recommends Hooway for Wodney Wat by Helen Lester. “Sometimes what we believe to be weaknesses turn out to be strengths. Just showing up and being willing to try is the bravery that defeats the bully. Hooway for Wodney Wat!” 

Danielle from Capitol Hill Library recommends Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson. “It’s a reminder that bullying can come in many forms. Exclusion can be just as hurtful as other forms of bullying.” 

“I still like Word Nerd by Susin Nielsen because it has the typical smart kid being mercilessly bullied at school,” says Ebonee from Books2U, “but it also explores intellectual ‘bullying.’”

“One of my favorite books last year for middle grades is The Boys in the Back which has a fantastic, non-didactic anti-bullying and anti-toxic-masculinity message,” says Natasha from Hollywood Library. “It's such a great example of male friendship!”  

Rebecca from Virtual Services recommends a title for teens. “I really liked the book Cursed by Karol Ruth Silverstein. “It showed me how much more challenging things can be for kids and teens who have additional barriers they're dealing with — physical as well as emotional and psychological.”

Holly from Midland Library recommends a book for parents of middle schoolers. "Queen Bees & Wannabees by Rosalind Wiseman takes the issue on in multiple ways and helps dissect what is happening, and how to counteract the more aggressive behaviors seen in pre-teen and early teen girls." 

And finally, Jen from Youth Services recommends Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly. “This is a story about a group of wonderfully unique kids who are brought together by the neighborhood bully’s mean prank. There is humor and courage and a really sweet guinea pig named Gulliver.”  

This article was written for our Family Newsletter, available in English and Spanish. Please sign up here and you can email us at learning@multcolib.org with any questions.

When we talk about what to do about bullying, the word "prevention" comes up a lot.  During October, World Bullying Prevention month, we are sharing helpful books and resources.  What can we do to prevent bullying in our own family and school communities? According to StopBullying.gov, there are a few simple things we can do, including:

Multnomah County Library staff would like to add:

  • Reading books and resources that show kids ways to deal with bullies and bullying behavior.         

To help with this last point, we’ve pulled together a few reading lists (below).  We also asked library staff to tell us about their favorite books that address bullies and bullying. Here's what they have to recommend:    

“I really love Bob Staake's Bluebird,” says Carolyn from Woodstock Library. “It is really sad but beautiful and poignant.” Alisa from Albina Library agrees. “It's so beautiful. I have cried on more than one occasion looking at that book.”

Alisa also recommends The Boy in the Orange Cape by Adam Ciccio. “It’s a heartwarming story about how the power of empathy and kindness begins with one person, then quickly spreads out to help support those in need.”  

“I really love The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld,” says Ekatrina at Holgate Library. “It has a powerful message about holding space for a child — or anyone who has faced a devastating loss — to process it in their own way, in their own time. And I love how in the end there is a magnificent sense of excitement and hope.”

“My favorite is Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems,” says Sarah from Central Library. “It helps you realize to not take a bully's behavior personally and how you can disarm them with vulnerability. It's also super funny, fun to read, and has some great alternatives for swears.”

SyNova from Kenton Library recommends I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoët.  “It's a wordless picture that kids and adults can have heartfelt dialogue about the different emotions throughout the book about kindness and stand up for others that are being bullied in front of them while at school and how that would be like to me when going back to school this year.” Kate from Youth Services also loves this one. “It shows that even small acts of kindness can make a difference to the person being bullied and can give others the courage to do something too.”  

Jen from Cataloging recommends Hooway for Wodney Wat by Helen Lester. “Sometimes what we believe to be weaknesses turn out to be strengths. Just showing up and being willing to try is the bravery that defeats the bully. Hooway for Wodney Wat!” 

Danielle from Capitol Hill Library recommends Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson. “It’s a reminder that bullying can come in many forms. Exclusion can be just as hurtful as other forms of bullying.” 

“I still like Word Nerd by Susin Nielsen because it has the typical smart kid being mercilessly bullied at school,” says Ebonee from Books2U, “but it also explores intellectual ‘bullying.’”

“One of my favorite books last year for middle grades is The Boys in the Back which has a fantastic, non-didactic anti-bullying and anti-toxic-masculinity message,” says Natasha from Hollywood Library. “It's such a great example of male friendship!”  

Rebecca from Kenton Library recommends a title for teens. “I really liked the book Cursed by Karol Ruth Silverstein. “It showed me how much more challenging things can be for kids and teens who have additional barriers they're dealing with — physical as well as emotional and psychological.”

Holly from Midland Library recommends a book for parents of middle schoolers. "Queen Bees & Wannabees by Rosalind Wiseman takes the issue on in multiple ways and helps dissect what is happening, and how to counteract the more aggressive behaviors seen in pre-teen and early teen girls." 

And finally, Jen from Youth Services recommends Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly. “This is a story about a group of wonderfully unique kids who are brought together by the neighborhood bully’s mean prank. There is humor and courage and a really sweet guinea pig named Gulliver.”  

This article was written for our Family Newsletter, available in English and Spanish. Please sign up here and you can email us at learning@multcolib.org with any questions.

closeup on the face of a young child with mask on
Going back to school has always made kids anxious — and their caregivers too! What will they wear? Will their friends be nice to them? Will they make new friends? Who will they sit with at lunch? Will a school bully be in class with them? And so on … .

This year’s return to school has an added layer of anxiety due to the pandemic. And as this article from the Child Mind Institute notes, “children who are heading back to the classroom this fall are facing unusual challenges, and one of them is an overall feeling of anxiety about what to expect.”

The article goes on to give some tips on how to address this anxiety:

  • Validate your child’s feelings
  • Set the tone by being calm and confident
  • Help your child focus on positive things
  • Make sure your child has a predictable routine
  • Emphasize safety and encourage flexibility
  • Know when to seek further help

Please see the full article for more detailed tips and ideas to help your child gain confidence and independence for a smooth school transition. It is also available in Spanish. Plus the Child Mind Institute has Back to School Tips for Parents.

And if you have a teenager heading back to school, you might be seeing a lot of turmoil. As with younger kids, it’s important to accept that these feelings are valid. And it’s also important to realize that teens may process these feelings differently than younger folks. A recent New York Times article (PDF linked below*) gives tips on how to support teens as they head back to school, with specific ideas on how to get their feelings out and flowing, without them turning into a flood. Some of the ideas mentioned are:

  • Rather than trying to “fix” your teen’s problems, “listening intently and offering genuine compassion may be all that’s needed.” 
  • “Adolescents looking for psychological relief may need a good cry to release their frustration ...Others might temper their emotions by engaging in intense physical activity. So long as it’s safe, don’t be put off by how young people discharge psychological tension.”
  • Teens might take a needed break “from worrying about the Delta variant by getting lost in a book or TikTok videos.”
  • Getting outside and moving around can also help.
  • Some may want to talk via text, rather than face-to-face.
  • As with younger kids, caregivers who are calm and confident can act like a sandbag during a flood.
  • And sometimes distraction is the best remedy. 
  • They also discuss when it’s important to be concerned and look for more help. 

We also wrote a previous post on teen mental health that we invite you to read. And again, we are here to support you, so let us know what we can do (contact email below). 

This article was written for our Family Newsletter, available in English and Spanish. Please sign up here and you can email us at learning@multcolib.org with any questions.

*If you do not subscribe to the New York Times you can get full access to their articles through the library’s databases. Here is a PDF of the article mentioned from our database: Damour, L. (2021). How to support teenagers as they head back to school, as well as a direct link into the database. Contact us for more information.

Young student in classroom with mask on
Dear families, as we embark on our third school year filled with uncertainty, we want you to know that we are here to help. We know that you and the children you care for are tired and frustrated, so we have pulled together some resources to assist you, and encourage you to contact us at learning@multcolib.org for any further support:

Educational Support

Oregon Department of Education (ODE) Students & Families page: Find resources on everything from school busing to graduation requirements

Parent/teacher conferences: Prepare ahead of time for parent/teacher conferences to feel more comfortable and confident. 

Schools and COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) from the ODE.

Tutoring: We have listed a variety of free tutoring opportunities on our blog, including the library’s K-12 Virtual Tutoring service, providing 30-minute sessions with adult tutors once a week on Tuesdays.

Food

Meal resources for families: We try to keep this post up-to-date on meal resources in Multnomah County (and beyond). 

Health

Mental Health Moment: Back-to-school anxiety: Going back to school has always made kids - and their caregivers! - anxious. We share some ideas to help smooth the transition. 

Multnomah County Student Health Centers: Student Health Centers are like having a doctor’s office at school. They offer comprehensive primary and mental health care services to all Multnomah County youth ages 5-18. There are no out-of-pocket costs. 

The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) Mental Health and Well-being Page: The ODE is committed to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of Oregon students and their families. 

Talking with teens about mental health: As caregivers, we must listen to our teenagers and reach out if we see concerning signs. Here are some resources to help.

What we can do to prevent bullying: Library staff offer resources, information and book recommendations about bullying and bullying prevention. 

Technology

Emergency Broadband Benefit: Provided by the FCC, this program allows eligible households to enroll through an approved provider or by visiting GetEmergencyBroadband.org.

Library computers and internet access: The library offers free access to computers, chromebooks, printers and scanners within our library buildings. We also offer technology assistance in other ways. Please contact our Tech Help for more information or call us at 503.988.5123.

This article was written for our Family Newsletter, available in English and Spanish. Please sign up here and you can email us at learning@multcolib.org with any questions.

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