During the first few weeks of school–sometimes even on the first day–interesting behaviors begin to manifest themselves. It doesn’t take long to notice that Harry is usually not on task, the Jill talks incessantly, and that Amelia’s desk if full of trinkets from home that she plays with constantly. While some behaviors are easily addressed and corrected, others become a pattern.
As the classroom teacher, you will want to make note of these behaviors in either a card file, on the computer, or in a notebook. You will be glad that you did this when it comes time for parent-teacher conferences. It is not good enough to tell a parent that “Amelia is always messing around in her desk.” You need to be specific and have a record. For example, I often record such items as the following:
Harry Smith: Homework not finished on 8/22, 9/3, 9/7, 9/20, 10/1 and 10/8
Sally Smith: Observed the following on 9/7–Playing with Polly Pocket in her desk from 10:03–10:23 on Sept. 2 (Yes, I have allowed this to go on so that I can record data); On Sept. 4th, spent 10 minutes of math time taking apart bracelet that she had worn to school; Sept. 7, was observed tying her shoelaces to desk chair during silent reading and playing with trading cards in her desk during math
Bob Smith: 9/23 Refused to take out book when asked to do so. Threw assignment in trash can on the way out of the classroom. 9/24 Had head down on desk during video clip, refused to work with group on biology project; 9/28 Absent from school, did not turn in his portion of group project; 9/30 Arrived late to class, said he was looking for his cell phone in the library; 10/1 late to class, said it wasn’t his fault he didn’t have his homework as it was taken from him in the lunch room and not returned
Clara Smith: 9/12 Asked to sharpen pencil at 10:02, stopped at Carl’s desk on way to sharpener, looked out window, stuck arm in fish tank, stopped to look at the “good work” board, and after sharpening pencil, returned to seat at 10: 08
We would like to think that we all have good memories when it comes to remembering what our students do during the day. But if you are like me, when I am sitting with a parent at a conference and they are upset, I want to have my facts straight. There is something more convincing about having written documentation than just telling a parent that “Bob isn’t doing well in class,” or the “Bob doesn’t use his time wisely.”
Having written documentation also shows the parent that you are professional, and that you are on top of your game! Just be careful that when you deliver the information to the parent, you are courteous and matter of fact. You do not want to inadvertently communicate, “Gotcha!”
On another note, my faulty memory has often worked against a student. Is Jimmy really turning in quite a bit of late work…or am I confusing him with several other students. I have actually thought to myself, “This student is absent A LOT,” only to find out that attendance records do not corroborate my assumption. Keeping careful documentation can be not only be helpful in problem solving, but also help you avoid embarrassing situations.
Decide early in the year how you will document behaviors, then be consistent. It only takes a few minutes to jot down information that may become useful at IEP meetings, conferences, student intervention programs, and so on.