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One big parent-teacher conference
Concord event now in its third year

05/20/10



The Partnerships for Education 2010 conference aims to make sure high school graduates are ready for their next steps.

The conference, which is in its third year, will focus more than it has in past years on issues before the high school student. John-Michael Dumais, executive director of the Parent Information Resource Center, said several courses are geared toward addressing students’ readiness for life after high school, whether that be college or the workforce. A University of New Hampshire admissions official will host a course on preparing students for their next step.

“This year, we really kind of pulled out all the stops,”  Dumais said.

Leo Corriveau, superintendent of the Mascenic School District, will provide the keynote address at the conference, slated for Saturday, May 15, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord. Visit www.picnh.org/p4e2010 to register.

Conference organizers have set Saturday, May 8, as the deadline for registration.
The conference will feature courses in 21st-century education, parental involvement, special education and early childhood education. First Robotics will be present to discuss how technical programs can help prepare students for careers in math and science.

The conference is geared toward parents, teachers and administrators. Dumais has seen more parents attend each year so far. With lots of media coverage centered on bullying in New Hampshire and regionally, Dumais said bullying experts will be talking about that at the conference as well.

“We tried to offer something for everyone,” Dumais said.

The U.S. Department of Education is paying for about two thirds of the cost of the conference, while the $35 registration fee would cover the other third, Dumais said.

PIRC offers scholarships for people who can’t pay the registration fee, as well as transportation and childcare assistance for those who need it. The conference will also be translated in real time for Hispanic parents, who would be set up with wireless headphones.

There are obstacles to getting parents in the audience. For one, many simply aren’t used to attending this type of event. Dumais said it’s very different from parent-teacher conferences that parents are likely to be more used to.

More and more high schools are looking to provide real-world outlets to students, so that they can garner some professional experience. It’s not just professional experience that students need, but help with interviewing and practicing using strong language, which is of particular importance given the increased use of texting or e-mail.

Dumais said students need to understand how to communicate properly and professionally.

Manchester Superintendent of Schools Thomas Brennan will be one of the education officials speaking at the conference about learning outside the classroom and how schools are making the adjustment to that style of learning.

“Not all students like sitting in a chair all day...reading and listening,” Dumais said. “A lot don’t do all that well that way.”

Alternative learning opportunities would reduce dropout rates and encourage students to be “much more in the driver’s seat,” Dumais said.

At the heart of the Parent Information Resource Center is communication between parents and their children. There are challenges before parents when it comes to getting involved in the lives of high school students. For one, high school kids often don’t want their parents involved. Programs often focus on parental involvement during elementary school. Parents aren’t going to be pitching in on a school project at the high school level, but Dumais said there is still a role to play.

Dumais said the conference will include information on how parents can intervene with their high school-age children.

“It’s an opportunity to maximize the child-parent relationship,” Dumais said.

Along with high school students often not wanting to “deal” with their parents, there are new barriers to communication — kids are more likely to be on their cell phones, text messaging, playing video games or on a computer.

“Parents are understandably concerned,” Dumais said. “They may need to set some limits. Not just ‘Don’t do this’ and ‘Don’t do that.’ But maybe hours per day. Communicate with kids about why and what they might be missing. Technology certainly plays a role...parents need to be more aware of the effects of technology.”

Dumais said there are things parents can do to maximize the opportunities with their kids and “to minimize the feeling of tensions, of parents and children being on opposite side of the divide.”

Dumais said the traditional “do as I say” mode of communication doesn’t really work that well. But on the other side, parents need to be respected by their children as well.

And the conference can serve as a resource for parents looking for some insight into communicating and getting through to children.

“When you’re getting ready for dinner, you could be listening to the radio or watching TV or you could spend a couple minutes asking creative thinking questions about what kids are learning in school,” Dumais said. If parents are interested in what their children are learning, the child knows it’s important, Dumais said.

Parents can encourage open-ended conversations rather than focusing on grades specifically.

“The quality of the relationship is harmed by focusing too much on judgmental aspects,” Dumais said. 

The conversation can go more smoothly if parents are not jumping to conclusions about how much their children are trying in school. Instead of opening with “How come you didn’t do better?” parents can open with, “I noticed you’re getting a C. Can we talk about it?” Ask students what they think first, Dumais said.
“There might be all kinds of reasons, and maybe it’s not their own efforts,” Dumais said.






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