Once everyone has agreed that retention would be the best decision for a student, someone has to tell the student. Some parents prefer to do this themselves. While other parents prefer the teacher tells the student and then the parent does follow-up conversations at home. Some parents and teachers, jointly tell the student. In most cases, when I retained a student, the parents and I told the student jointly. We would meet with the student at the very end of the year, but before move-up day. The conversation would begin with a question for the student, such as "How do you feel the school year went for you?' With follow-up questions, "What was your favorite subject?" "What did you like best?" "What did you find challenging?" "Was there something you would like to have more time to learn or something you would like to improve on?" "What do you feel was the hardest/most challenging subject?" I would then explain that... "some students just need a little more time to learn math or reading, or whatever. It is like that for everything we do. There are somethings I can do really well and there are somethings I need more time to learn. That is true for everyone." Give examples of things that the student does well and then what he/she needs to work on. Do not give a laundry list of what the student needs to improve on, that can be overwhelming. Only mention a few areas that need improvement. Have the parents share areas where they have had to spend a lot of time learning something, hopefully a school related topic.
Tell the student how fortunate he/she is to have adults who want to make sure their learning is right where it should be before they go to the next grade level. "So, we, your parents and I, have decided we are going to give you that time to make your learning the best it can be at this grade level. You are going to spend another year in grade_____, to make sure you are totally ready for grade______." Let that settle in for a few seconds, then clarify any questions the student might have. Most importantly, be as reassuring as possible. Make sure the student understands that they have done nothing wrong. This is all about learning and be well prepared for the next level.
If possible, let the student know who the teacher will be for the new year. Arrange for the student to visit the new class. Check to see if the student has any friends going into that class as well. Suggest to the parents to arrange for play dates during the summer to help build relationships within the new class.
Now, having said all that, please know that this strategy is not researched based. It is experienced based.
It is what worked best for me, my families and my students. I hope, however, this will help you with your conversation with a student you may be retaining.
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