Parent-Teacher Conferences


This is a post that I wrote last year focusing on parent-teacher conferences. Please take a look and gear up to get the most out of your upcoming conference.

Strong communication between home and school is critical to the success of our students and children. Parent-teacher conferences are one formal mechanism we use to support and enhance the home-school connection. Parent-teacher conferences take place formally twice per year; in November and April. This year’s dates are November 7th and 13th and April 8th and 16th. These are important times for teachers and families to review progress, address concerns, and plan strategically for the coming months. It goes without saying that these conferences are very important to the education of our students. Teachers spend many hours preparing for conferences and there are many things parents can do to ensure efficient and effective conferences.

  1. Come Prepared
    • Take time in the days preceeding the conference to gather your thoughts. What questions do you have for the teacher? What concerns do you have? What is it you would like your child to focus on in the coming weeks and months?
  2. Stay Positive and Focused
    • Productive, goal oriented conversations are critical. Discussions about our children aren’t always easy. We have all kinds of hopes, dreams, expectations, and feelings for and about our children. Both you and your child’s teacher are there to discuss and carry out actions that are in the best interests of your child. Keeping this fact in mind will help maintain focus on what’s most important.
  3. Talk to Your Child Before and After the Conference
    • We often overlook the fact that children are very important members of our team. Involving students in the decisions that impact their lives is critical for two primary reasons. First it provides a sense of agency. Children need to understand that they play a key role in determining the course and outcome of their lives. Second, it builds ownership and accountability. When children are involved in the processes and decisions that impact their lives, they are more likely to engage in the plans and hold themselves accountable to goals and outcomes.
    • Talk to your children before the conference. Ask them questions. What do they think they need to work on? What are their strengths? What questions do they have?
    • After the conference, let your children know what you discussed during the conference. Answer the questions they posed and clearly lay out goals and expectations for the coming weeks and months.

If you would like other tips and more reading on Parent-Teacher conferences, check out the following links:

Family Education


National Education Association



We want to hear from you!

BenHemLogoStrong family and community engagement is an essential element of any high performing school. Ben-Hem is fortunate to serve a community that is dedicated to the education of its young people. Year after year Ben-Hem families invest the time and energy it takes to support their children and the community at large. The Ben-Hem PTO is a driving force in focusing the efforts of parents by providing meaningful opportunities for parents to engage in and support the work of the school. Through fundraising, volunteer opportunities, enrichment programming, and community building events the PTO works tirelessly to enhance learning and opportunities for our children.

The amazing work of the PTO is one piece of the family and community engagement puzzle. Parent and community feedback is another. Ben-Hem has always valued the input of parents as we have worked to improve overall school function. Through informal interactions, meetings with parents, parent-teacher conferences and many other avenues, we gain a great deal of information as to the perceived function and quality of our programs and practices. While these sources of data are very helpful, we want to expand opportunities for families to provide us with feedback.

This year Mr. Kelly will host monthly parent coffees to provide parents and family members with an opportunity to come in to school and discuss how things are going, share ideas, and ask questions. The schedule for “Mr. Kelly’s Coffee” follows:

  • November 12th at 8:30 a.m.
  • December 11th at 4:00 p.m.
  • January 13th at 7:00 p.m.
  • February 10th at 8:30 a.m.
  • March 12th at 7:00 p.m.
  • April 14th at 4:30 p.m.
  • May 19th at 8:30 a.m.

In addition to these listening opportunities, Mr. Kelly has also posted a quick feedback form on Ben-Hem’s web-site. This form is intended to provide parents and community members with a quick and easy opportunity to provide the school with thoughts, comments, or questions. Please take time periodically to let us know how we are doing and what we can do to improve our service to this community.

School Improvement Planning at Ben-Hem

full_redhawksIn our last post we discussed the legislative origins and function of school councils. One of the primary responsibilities of the school council is to support the principal in developing an annual School Improvement Plan (SIP). The 2014 – 2015 SIP is a document that captures the current performance of the school, identifies the needs of the school, and sets goals to address those needs.

In Natick, principals work as a team to develop goals and programming that provide Natick students with equitable access to learning opportunities.  In coordinating these efforts, elementary principals develop an annual school improvement plan that takes into account district needs as well as needs at the building level.  As such,

What We’re Working on This Year

The Elementary School Improvement Plan reflects our efforts towards educating the “whole” child.  We recognize that developing social, emotional, and behavioral competency is equally as important as developing academic skills.  Students who attend schools that support universal instruction in these areas experience higher achievement.

District Goal: Student Growth

This year will mark the first time that all of the Natick Elementary Schools will take the PARCC assessment.  The PARCC is aligned to the Common Core State Standards and will measure whether students are on track towards being college and career ready.  The PARCC assessment presents many new challenges in both content and administration. Across the district, our work will focus on ensuring that our curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices are aligned to these new assessments and support student growth and success.

District Goal: Technology Implementation

Over the past few years, Natick elementary schools have piloted mobile technologies to assess and understand their place in the elementary learning environment. These pilots have demonstrated great success and we are prepared to build on these successes during the 2014-2015 school year.  Each elementary classroom (K-4) has been equipped with 5 mobile devices to support student engagement and learning.  Through the pilot programs, Natick has developed teacher leaders who are prepared to lead and support their colleagues in bringing these technologies into their practice.

District Goal: Wellness

Academics is only one part of a child’s education. It is important that out teachers focus on social, physical, and emotional development as well. This is sometimes referred to as educating the “whole child.” This year elementary faculty and staff will research mindfulness awareness practices (or MAPs) in classrooms. The goal of this research is to better understand how we can support the intrapersonal skill development that supports effective learning and development.  MAPs have been shown to reduce anxiety and depression as well as help children develop critical executive functioning skills such as emotional regulation, behavioral regulation, attentional control and mental flexibility.

Ben-Hem Goal: Professional Capital

The Ben-Hem faculty and staff are dedicated and incredibly skilled professionals. Within these individuals Natick holds a tremendous accumulation of human capital. These individuals are eager to engage in lifelong growth and to support one another in that cycle of continuous improvement. Unfortunately, the rapid increase of state/federal mandates and test driven accountability mechanisms creates a situation in which these individuals work and learn under greater stress and isolation. As such, there is little opportunity to grow the teamwork and collaborative decision making that supports the continued enhancement of Natick’s human capital investment. This year Ben-Hem will focus on enhancing the overall efficacy of the school by leveraging the skills, interests, and needs of staff to foster professional learning, growth, and team work.

Ben-Hem Goal: Data Teams

Ben-Hem is now in its fifth year of implementing Data Teams. Data teams are one of the foundational elements of successful educational programming. Over the years, universal screening, data team, and intervention programming systems and structures have grown and evolved. These structures have been successful, however, Ben-Hem can do better in supporting faculty to make informed diagnostic and instructional decisions for students. To that end, the Ben-Hem team will continue to refine data team systems and structures to enhance learning opportunities for our students.

 Elementary Presentation to the School Committee on October 6th, 2014.

Ben-Hem’s School Council

Public schools are complex organizations focused on ensuring equal access and opportunity to learn for all students. Our public school systems are governed by a complicated web of federal law, state law, and local school committee policies and procedures. The day to day operation of schools can seem overwhelming and confusing if you don’t know the ins and outs of how schools work. This piece is the first in an ongoing series that will provide parents and families with more information about how Ben-Hem (and public schools in general) function.

In 1993 the Massachusetts legislature passed the Education Reform Act. This piece of legislation represented a monumental shift in structure and practice for public schools across the Commonwelath. Amongst other changes, the Ed Reform Act of 1993 established the requirements for statewide learning standards, a comprehensive standardized testing system and the establishment of school councils at every public school.

The legislative intent behind the school council provisions was to provide school principals with support in running and managing schools as the state was providing greater decision making authority to building level administrators. The school council is a elected group of parent and faculty representatives who advise the principal on the needs of the school, school improvement planning, and school budget.

Ben-Hem’s school council meets once per month between September and May. The meetings are an hour long and focus on current issues as they relate to Ben-Hem. While you have to be elected to be a participating member of the school council, all are welcome to attend and hear more about the bigger picture issues that drive our continued efforts. You can find the council’s meeting schedule, agendas, and meeting minutes on our website.

School Council Members:

Ian P. Kelly, Principal

Mary Gavin, Special Education Teacher

Kim Marzullo, Grade 1 Teacher

Caroline Kruszewska, Kindergarten Teacher

Kate Wraight, Grade 2 Teacher

Hayley Sonnenborn, Parent

Florina Uyar, Parent

Susan Harvey, Parent

Amanda Wasecki-Wislocki, Parent

Ben Gatto, Vice Principal (Member Ex-Officio)