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At the beginning of the school year and as the year draws to a close, most teachers would like to schedule a parent-teacher conference.
Parent-teacher conferences are an important way for parents to gain insight into how their child is doing in school and for parents and teachers to work together in the best interest of the child to set them up for success this school year and beyond.
What to expect at your parent-teacher conference
In these conferences, your child’s teacher will give you valuable information about how your child is doing academically and socially while at school, such as observations about their behavior, level of participation and social interaction, grades, as well as standardized test scores and what those mean for your son or daughter. The teacher also hopes to gather helpful information from you- how things are going in the child’s life outside of school, what you think of your child’s level of academic performance, and answer any question you have.
The goal of a conference is to get a well-rounded understanding of what’s happening with the child in the day-to-day while also taking a look at the big picture.
Ultimately, the conversation should be focused on what you and your child’s teacher can do to help your child learn and succeed.
Here are several strategies for having a successful parent-teacher conference that will get everyone on the same page, working together to ensure your child does their best in school this year
Take time to create a list of any questions that have been on your mind lately.
Do you have questions about anything that was confusing or concerning them in the previous few months of school? Now is a great time to ask them.
Take a bit to talk to your child before your meeting to check in with how they feel things are going at school and any topics that come up and may need to be addressed.
Some other questions to ask or topics that may be covered in the parent-teacher conference:
Ask about your child’s academic performance and how it compares to grade-level expectations.
- Which subjects is my child doing really well with? Which are the most challenging for my child?
- How does the quality of my children’s work compare to their ability?
Socially & Emotionally –
It is important to ask your child’s emotional health at school. The quality of their emotional development will be a major factor in their ability to learn. This is why it is important to have a good understanding of their emotional development and how they are doing.
- Share with your teacher any big events or changes in your family.
- Ask about your child’s attitude, social skills, and development in general.
How you can work together
Teachers prefer different communication methods, so it’s important to find out which one your child’s teacher prefers.
You should also ask what you can be doing at home to help support your child’s academic and developmental progress.
For example, it is important for children to have frequent opportunities to practice what they are learning at school.
If there are any concerns about your child’s progress, ask the teacher what steps you can take at home to support them and help resolve the issue. This could be anything from making sure they get their homework done by the end of the night, to encouraging them to read for pleasure more often.
Take your questions with you and a pen and paper to take notes during the meeting.
Arrive on Time
Plan to get to the school early to give yourself time to park, walk in, be ready and waiting right on time. If you aren’t on time, the teacher is likely to start their next conference and will try to fit you in after, which may or may not be possible.
Yes, your time is valuable, but so is the teacher’s time and the other families. She has many more students and families to accommodate and usually only about 10-15 minutes to meet with each family. There is already the variable of meetings that run a few minutes long due to the nature of them. When you add in parents not being ready to meet on time, it becomes a domino effect if the teacher has to wait on you to arrive and start your meeting late.
Listen first and follow the teacher’s lead
When you go to your parent-teacher conference, the teacher will have an agenda of things she wants to review. This might include things that are required and also some things that are optional. Listen carefully to what the teacher has to say, and follow her lead.
Some teachers will focus on presenting grades, test scores, and observations with the parents first. Then she will move from presenter to listener, listening to information the parents have to share and answering any questions they may have.
Others prefer to start by having the parents share their observations, questions, and ask what the parents would like to accomplish during the conference.
Don’t be afraid to ask upfront what’s on the agenda and in what order to best accomplish the goals. This will help eliminate confusion and help make sure YOU also get to check off all your boxes if you know when you will have the floor.
Keep it concise and on time
Stay focused on what the teacher is telling you and what questions are asking. Keeping questions and stories concise and on-point will help you accomplish everything on your to-do or to-ask list. Getting off track and jumping around leads to important tasks being forgotten and could lead to just running out of time.
Remember, teachers have a small window to meet with each family and a ton of families to fit in that day. She’s doing the best you can but needs to stay as close to her schedule as possible. You can always schedule a follow-up meeting to continue any conversations.
Be a team player and work with the teacher
Parents and teachers working together is a critical part of your child’s education and growth. Remember, this is a collaborative effort. You are on the same team. That’s why you are there – to exchange information and insights.
Their goal is to help your child be successful. In order for this to happen, you need to work together and support academics at home. Work with them to come up with strategies for success.
- As an additional note: Be mindful to choose your words carefully when it comes to some conversations with your child. Talking poorly about their teacher, other students, or school in front of them is not productive and creates a power struggle that benefits no one.
- If you have concerns that you feel are not being addressed properly, being aggressive or belligerent is also counterproductive. Discuss it calmly. Present your perspective and information. Listen carefully and openly to any response. Trying and/or being able to see the issue from their side can help you figure out how to come up with a solution that works for everyone. If you still cannot find a way to work together, then contact administration.
Our school’s teachers have just been hammered from all sides over the last few years, juggling gigantic tasks in an impossible situation with more and more piled on them every week. They are exhausted. And every day, they show up to teach and pour into our children, our future community members and leaders.
Let the teacher know you see what she’s doing for her classes and your child. Thank her for her hard work.
“I see you are doing a lot of things for my child and the other kids in the room. This is really hard work, but I want you to know that I am thankful. Thank you for working so hard on behalf of my family and the other families in this classroom. You are doing a great job!”
Follow up and stay in touch
The parent-teacher conference is only half of the equation; the other, perhaps even trickier, half consists of following up and achieving the goals established during the meeting.
After your meeting with the teacher, sit down with your family to discuss the school-home connection and what you are going to do at home to help with your child’s academic and developmental success.
If you think of other questions in the days after your meeting, don’t hesitate to reach out. It’s also a good idea to touch base and share any changes you’ve seen at home and ask how things are going at school, especially if you have discussed specific issues, plans, and goals for your child.
Do your part to have a helpful, informative conference. After all, you and the teachers are “in it together” when it comes to educating your children.
Keep open lines of communication. Collaborate on strategies to support your child’s learning and development at home.
Follow these strategies to have a successful parent-teacher conference, and ultimately, your child will reap the benefits of your efforts.