Welcome to our first of three blogs in our School Meeting Series! Here we will dig into the in’s and out’s of SST meetings so that you, as caregivers or as teachers, are able to maximize your time together throughout.
What is a SST meeting anyway?
SST is an acronym for Student Study Team. The initial SST meeting is typically the first time you have met to discuss a particular concern outside of a parent-teacher conference. Sometimes SST meetings are held in place of a conference because the teacher would like to involve the whole team in the discussion which could run longer than the average time allotted for a caregiver teacher conference. Someone takes notes throughout the meeting so that everyone has endless access to the discussion points.
What is the format of SST meetings?
SST meetings usually last 30-45 minutes (sometimes longer) and include a learner’s caregivers, teachers, and at least one school representative such as the Counselor, Learning Specialist, Program Director, and/or administrator. If your child has received any specialized services in or out of the school environment, other providers are welcomed to attend as well. The SST facilitator starts by collecting or recapping any relevant background information, then moves into strengths and areas that are going well this school year. After each team member has the chance to share, then the facilitator will move into opportunities for growth or challenges the learner is presently facing. After the discussion, the team will provide an overview as to the action plan which includes potential accommodations, modifications, layers of support, and the like. At the conclusion of the meeting, the facilitator will determine the next point of communication whether it be a follow-up SST meeting, the upcoming caregiver-teacher conference, or something of the sort. If a follow-up SST meeting is needed, they are generally held six to eight weeks after the first meeting to allow enough time for the team to gauge how the learner is responding to the documented plan of action.
Is an SST meeting cause for concern?
An SST meeting is usually not a reason to feel anxious or worried, but we are all human! This is especially true for the first meeting, although I realize it is hard to avoid feelings of angst when entering a team meeting about an area in which your learner is struggling. SST meetings are intended to remain positive and dynamic. Envision them like Think Tanks for your learner to access their full potential with the assistance of their support village!
What if the SST goals are not met?
If the suggestions/ideas do not work well for your learner, then I strongly suggest welcoming a follow-up meeting to further explore reasons as to why your learner might not feel successful or confident within particular areas. Some schools are limited by what they can offer internally, so your learner might require external support to meet the aforementioned goals, which is ok. We all have skills that are in need of development, so why not seek outside support somehow, someway? It is better that you model a growth mindset and positive outlook when your learner starts the path towards independence.
In Conclusion…If you have been asked to attend an SST meeting it simply means the teacher has noticed your learner struggling in a specific area. The educator and their team want to see your child succeed. An SST meeting is an excellent opportunity to create a positive communication link between caregivers and the school, so try to attend the meeting with a good outlook. The school wants to help. Be willing to listen to their ideas and be honest with your own concerns. When working together, clear answers, help for your learner, and a more joyful learning experience will surely follow. For more information on SST meetings, check out one of our favorite resources – understood.org.
Here we are, the school year is underway for most of us and we are approaching the months ahead with as much positivity and hopefulness that we can conjure. As caregivers, we had the opportunity to establish a relationship with our children’s teachers and school teams online last year but at the same time, we had to navigate the layers of pandemic protocols, distance learning, and so much more. Now that we can confidently say that pandemic learning is not going anywhere and we will, most likely, have most of our teacher meetings online this year as a result, we need to further explore ways in which we can connect with our learners’ teams virtually. That way, we are able to maximize opportunities for building rapport and strengthening connectivity in this new normal. Let’s dig into four simple ways that you can nurture a relationship virtually with your child’s team this school year and beyond.
Do Your Homework
Follow these steps to preparing for virtual teacher meetings and interactions this school year:
Review assignments, grades and any progress reports ahead of time.
Before the conference takes place, find an opportunity to sit with your child as he/she does homework in each subject.
Understand their strengths and thought process first-hand.
Delineate questions that come to mind throughout each of the above.
List a few talking points so that you feel more comfortable initiating or maintaining the conversation.
Half of the battle when it comes to almost anything in our life that we perceive as an obstacle is to show up! We spend a good deal of time online and, thus, should try to find ways to engage with our learners’ teams in the same way. One of the first ways to do this is to introduce yourself to your child’s teacher or specialist via email to let them know how excited you are to collaborate with them this year. They can reply when it is convenient to do so and will appreciate the notion. Next, look out for sign-up invites to teacher meetings such as Back to School/Curriculum Nights, Progress Checks, Parent-Teacher Conferences, and the like. Once you officially sign up for a time that works well, show up! I know, I know, it is much easier to NOT go because it is not as noticeable in larger group settings or your life is a juggling act like mine. But showing up sends a strong message to the teacher that being present and involved is important to you and your family as a whole.
Following up shows your learners’ team that you are committed to supporting them and your child as best you can. During the introductory point of contact, ask your child’s teacher how he/she prefers to communicate (email, note, phone calls, etc.). At the conclusion of any discussion, meeting, or Parent-Teacher Conference, remember to ask what the next formal point of contact will be so that you can ensure there will be one. And, of course, gestures of gratitude go a long way as well – thank you emails, handwritten notes, homemade teacher gifts – small tokens of your appreciation can make a huge difference throughout the school year.
Connect Outside of Meetings
This step is not as easy as it once was, let’s be honest. Most schools are not allowing parents onsite, let alone taking field trips. That said, you can still practice finding chances to connect with your children’s teaching team outside of parent meetings. If you happen to be one of the lucky ones who can step foot on campus, maintain consistent, open communication by chatting briefly at drop off and/or pick up. Hey, if your child’s teacher works the car line- perfect! Essentially, it is key to find/think of ways to remain involved like volunteering as a parent helper outside of the classroom doing things such as preparing materials (online or to drop off) for class or scheduling future virtual field trips. Every step you take in an effort to volunteer makes life easier for your child’s teacher so that he/she can spend more time with the learners they love!
In close, try to keep the following principles from the Harvard Family Research Projectin mind for productive and effective communication in every virtual teacher collaborative effort:
Best intentions assumed
Emphasis on learning
Examples and evidence
Respect for all
Dedication to follow-up
As a mother of four children, three of whom are school-aged, I can empathize with the roller coaster of emotions that caregivers and educators are feeling at this time of year. Not only are we faced with the whirlwind that is back-to-school season, but we are still in the peak of a pandemic, which continues to create quite a bit of anxiety in society as a whole. I am torn–on one hand, I am overjoyed that our kids are returning to school in person with their peers after 18 months of distance learning. On the other hand, however, I am terrified for several reasons. I am sure that we are all facing this to some degree. Will our children feel safe? Will our children have the tools that they need to re-engage with their peers? Will learners be able to focus in a classroom while thinking about protocols and risks? Well, we can only control what we can control, so here I will discuss how my family is processing all of these variables in the hope you will find some reprieve in your own journey.
Our kids need structure and routine in their lives, as most kids do. As parents, we are able to perform at our best when we follow a schedule ourselves. To achieve this level of stability, we have created a routine in our family that helps our children feel secure. They know what to expect and when to expect it so they have one less thing to worry about. The timing of their daily activities does not cause them stress or angst. In fact, it creates the direct opposite. Our schedule remains relatively the same every day. From the time that they wake up to the space where they complete their homework, each of our kiddos can breathe a little easier throughout the day. We have learned to create a visual schedule at the start of the school year and a checklist of sorts for their morning/night routine so that they also feel a sense of independence each day. This boost of confidence launches each of our children into feelings of success so that they can approach the day with a layer of bravado and confidence.
As challenging as it is, the importance of modeling positivity, growth mindsets and finding joy are, without a doubt, at the top of our priority list as parents. Children need to feel validated when they experience emotions, no doubt, and they need to see people who they trust counteract those big feelings with optimism. One day, their internal voice will replay the scene or conversation that you had with them when they felt this same way in the past. “What did Mama do when she felt disappointed?” “Mama always says that I am strong enough to handle this.” Whatever the situation, modeling your emotions and sparking a conversation during an organic moment (at the dinner table, while playing a family game, driving in the car, etc.) helps children feel like they are not alone and that what they are facing is expected, thus, relieving any unnecessary stress from the adversity itself (it is stressful enough, right?).
Oof, this one is probably the most difficult of them all. Striking a level of balance between work and play, serious and lighthearted, excitement and calmness take quite a bit of reflection and time. My partner and I have had many conversations about this element of our family (and personal) life. We want our children to grow up with appropriate expectations of themselves, to live life to the fullest, and to work towards their goals wholeheartedly. As caregivers and educators, we are the first ones to let go of our self-care because the nature of our roles in life are selfless. Without balance in our own lives, it is nearly impossible to establish balance in our children’s lives. Even if you only have ten minutes a day to yourself, you are then better equipped to handle challenges as they come your way and you are better able to model balance and positivity now when our children need it the most.
Yes, our children deserve an education and yes, our children need socialization. In order for them to maximize the time that they have in the classroom this year, they also deserve and need structure, tools, validation, and balance. This is your calling, your chance to reframe this back-to-school season as an opportunity to set your learners on the path to victory by providing these layers of support at home and beyond.
It’s that time of year again, back to school season, when we send our learners to a new classroom full of possibilities. For some, that means immediate feelings of excitement and intrigue, while others are full of worry and angst. There are steps that you, as caregivers, can take in order to help ease your child back into all that the school year will hold – most involve establishing structure and routine that they can depend on before and after school. Let’s dig into some simple steps that we can all take (this mom of four included!) to set our children and ourselves up for success all year long!
Schedule, Schedule, Schedule
We all know how hard it can be to remain consistent and loyal to a set schedule and completely understand that there are times when we must veer from the plan. That said, we strongly encourage you to create a visual schedule for your kiddos for the week as a whole as well as each individual day so that everyone in your family knows exactly what to expect. This sense of security relieves a bit of tension as your learners head into each day/week which means they are much more likely to embrace the school day. I have also found that having a morning routine checklist by the door helps build their feelings of independence, strengthens their Executive Functioning, and alleviates that anxiety you feel every morning as you rush out of the door. Hey, you could even post one for the afternoon/evening routine too, why not? Check out these sampleschedules and a morning routine checklist and feel free to make them your own!
Praise & Incentivize
Always (and I mean always) start with the positive, find something to praise your learner for prior to giving feedback or suggestions. Research substantiates this notion that children are more receptive to your insight when they feel heard and seen first. Give them a little boost of self-confidence and self-worth by pumping them up first so that they are more willing to follow through with some of the challenges that come their way academically or social-emotionally. Sometimes our learners also need a little physical encouragement such as a high five or a pat on the back (cue our blog on The Five Love Languages!). If all else fails, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a good ol’ fashion incentive system such as a sticker chart or the like. Earning a little extra screen time or tallies towards bigger rewards down the line can fuel some learners’ fire towards completing their homework and approaching each day with the mindset that they need to thrive!
Clear Space, Clear Mind
Clearing your learner’s homework space and creating a clutter-free nook can also clear their minds so that they can fully engage with the work that comes home each day. Visual noise is real, I speak from experience. Even if you or your learners are not aware of how disorganization is negatively affecting your ability to sustain attention, I promise it does to some extent. Establishing a reliable workspace, then mentoring your learner to maintain the organization provides them with the upper hand cognitively, so that they can spend their energy where it is needed – learning! For some inspiration, check out The Spruce’s list of ideas! Also, quick tip – your learner can help set up their desk with supplies that they might need each afternoon while doing their homework to further develop their planning and organizational skills. As an aside, please make sure that they have a folder strictly for carrying their homework back and forth from school, you’d be surprised how many times they don’t!
Communication is Key
Keeping open lines of communication with your learner and their teaching team can prevent surprises and, thus, unnecessary stress down the line. Helping your kiddo feel comfortable talking with you and their educators can create channels of trust and stability that allow them to seek support and guidance when they need it the most. By modeling how to speak with adults and their peers during casual, organic moments such as at the dinner table or driving in the car, you are putting your child on a positive path to lean into discomfort and secure their social-emotional health at the same time.
As expert Barbara Colorso believes, “Our children are counting on us to provide two things: consistency and structure. Children need parents who say what they mean, mean what they say, and do what they say they are going to do.” Whether it is a visual schedule, a colorful chart, or some fun desk organizers – every step you take to set your family up for success will not go unnoticed. Sometimes, all it takes is for you, the caregiver, to get excited about a new process or system, for the trickle-down effect to come alive!