Parent-teacher conference 101

Oct 2, 2012 at 12:00 p.m. ET

Parent-teacher conferences are a great opportunity to connect about your child’s education, from his academic progress to how well he's socializing.

Whether your child gets gold stars or has some room for improvement, you should brush up on your parent-teacher conference etiquette before you hit the classroom.

Come prepared

The best way to make the most of your one-on-one time with your child’s teacher is to come to the meeting prepared. It shows respect for their time and helps you keep tabs on any questions you might have, or things you want your teacher to know about your child and what makes her tick. Bring a list of points you'd like to cover, or items like past homework assignments that you'd like to review.

Ask questions

Some questions you might consider asking are:

  • Is my child working to the best of her ability? If not, what can I do to help?
  • How is my child socializing in class? Are there any issues I should be aware of??
  • What is your discipline protocol in the classroom?
  • How will my child’s work be evaluated?
  • How much time should he spend each week on homework?
  • How can I best monitor her assignments and due dates to help her manage her workload?
  • Are there activities we can do outside of school to reinforce what my child is learning in class?
  • How can I help support my child's classroom? Are there volunteer reading opportunities, fundraisers planned or other ways I can get involved?

Maricela Sepulveda, an educator in Tustin, California, says that questions are a valuable part of parent-teacher conferences. Sepulveda explains that teachers welcome questions, so they’re not just speaking at parents as they walk through their child’s progress. Questions become a jumping-off point for discussion and create a more meaningful back-and-forth dialogue between the parent and teacher.

Share valuable insight

Sepulveda points out that feedback from parents about how the child is doing outside of school is also important. She encourages parents to share any relevant insight they might have about challenges the child might be facing, or milestones that might affect their behavior at school. For example, if your preschooler is having a hard transition with sleeping in his own room, that might impact his energy level or attention span in the morning. Sepulveda encourages parents to keep an open line of communication with teachers, both during conferences and throughout the school year.

Be objective

While you might just walk away with a glowing review, you should always approach a parent-teacher conference prepared to hear areas where your child can improve. These conferences are an opportunity for you to connect with your child’s educator candidly and privately. You’ll get the most out of that discussion and help turn critiques into opportunities for your child to grow, if the teacher can be straightforward with you and know that you’ll listen receptively. If there are areas for improvement, develop a plan with the teacher and ask what things you can do at home to help your child reach her goals.

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