How to make the most of your parent-teacher conference
In many school districts across the country, it’s time for the first parent-teacher conferences of the year. For parents, this meeting can cause anxiety because it is an evaluation of their child’s academic and social development.
I’ve been on both sides of these conferences, and the best approach for parents is to put aside all reservations and use the opportunity to establish a relationship with your child’s teacher.
Now that students are settled into the new school year, this is the perfect time to talk with your child’s teacher about his progress — and any potential challenges — and then work together to set goals for success for the year.
Research shows that partnering with teachers and engaging in your child’s learning improves her achievement and social skills.
Here’s how you can make the most of your parent-teacher conference so you can best support your child:
Schedule your meeting — Typically, your child’s teacher will contact you when it’s time for parent-teacher conferences and give you dates when you can meet with her. This gives you time to prepare and schedule the meeting. If you need a translator, sign language interpreter or other help, you can plan for someone to attend the meeting with you.
Talk with your child first — Before your meeting, talk to your child. Find out which subjects your child likes best, and which ones he doesn’t like — and why. Use National PTA’s Parents’ Guides to Student Success as a tool to help understand a clear, consistent expectations for what students should be learning at each grade level. Sometimes, there is a concern your child doesn’t know how to express themselves, and you can talk to the teacher directly about it.
Create a list of questions — These meetings can go by quickly. The teacher will have a prepared report, so you need to be prepared too. To have a productive two-way conversation, prepare a list of questions so you can leave the meeting with a comprehensive understanding of how your child is doing academically and socially in the classroom and how to address any issues. These questions should provide guidance and outline important talking points.
Listen to the teacher’s perspective, then tell your side — Be open-minded and don’t judge your child’s teacher until you hear his side. A parent-teacher conference shouldn’t be the first time a teacher or parent should learn about a problem, but sometimes it is. It’s hard not to be defensive, but assess the situation before reacting and share any contributing factors, such as a parent divorce, death, bullying or medical issues so the teacher has a full perspective on any issues.
Take notes — Don’t forget your notebook and pen! Jot down possible areas of improvement or positive feedback you want to monitor or talk about when you go back home to your child. It’s also handy if you have several teachers to visit, such as during middle or high school.
Ask to see work samples and other important documents — Parents should ask to see samples of their child’s work and ask about any activities they can do at home with their child to support her learning. Go over any other documents like the syllabus and upcoming projects or events.
Give your contact information — Parents and teachers should schedule a follow-up conference and decide on the best way to stay in touch for progress reports. Consistent communication (via email, phone, etc.) will help build the relationship and address issues immediately.
These tips will help you best support and advocate for your child. There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing your child excel in school. Good luck!