5 Tips for talking to your child's teacher

Mar 17, 2010 at 11:15 a.m. ET

The end of the school year is an exciting time. There is a feeling of accomplishment in a year of learning and excitement for the season to come. But before you start singing that old Alice Cooper song, there are some things you can do to wind down the year with your child - a prepare for an optimal start for next school year.

Parent Teacher Conference

Many schools offer parent teacher conferences in the spring, before the end of school. Sometimes they are mandatory, and sometimes they are optional. If they are optional in your school district, take advantage of the opportunity; if they are manadatory, make the most of the time available to you with the teacher. With a plan and openness, you and your child's teacher can better discuss and understand your child's learning style, and what might be appropriate for your child's academic future.

Arrive prepared

Before meeting with your child's teachers, write down what you want talk about and/or know about. Are you concerned about a specific academic subject area? Or is socialization a concern? Do you have some longer term goals for your child's education? These are all issues that you can discuss with your child's teacher; writing them down helps you remember in the moment.

Be ready to listen - and hear

Particularly if your child has had a challenging year, it can be hard to hear some of the concerns brought up by a teacher. We all think the world of our children (as well we should), but they are not perfect. It can be hard to hear the not so perfect part.

You know your child best overall, but your child's teacher likely has some specifc, experienced insight into how your child is absorbing key information. With concerns come ideas for addressing those concerns in a way appropriate to your child's learning style. It can be hard, but listening past any not so good part of the conference into the "how we can address" this part is key to helping your child move to the next level.

Remember the positive

Along with concerns and issues, if there are positives to convey, do so. Does your child love going to school? Did she particulary enjoy a science project? Did you see building confidence in your son through the year in his spelling? Mentioning the good - along with any challenges - helps both you and your child's teacher see the full picture of your child's academic year.

Respect time

Parent-teacher conferences days often have very tight schedules. If you have more to talk about with your child's teacher than the alloted time, schedule an additional conference or two to cover those topics. This level of respect for the teacher's time - as well as the time of parents who may be waiting - is beneficial to your working relationship with your child's teacher.

Get more tips here on preparing for a parent-teacher conference.

Take time to digest

After the conference, take some time to digest and think about how it went before you act on any specific issue. There may be some things you can do sooner rather than later - or not. You may need to do some research or talk to others first if there is a specific issue to address with and for your child. Your child's education is a years long process and you want to make sure you are making the best possible decision with the information you have.

Checking in with your child's teacher at the end of the school year, whether the conference is mandatory or optional, is a great way to understand how your child's academic year has been, and can help you formulate a plan for the next school year. Make the appointment now!

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