November 2, 2016 by Michelle Reynard
Preparing for Parent-Teacher Conferences
As a classroom teacher, I began parent-teacher conferences by asking if the parent(s) had any specific questions or concerns. I wanted to be sure to address them during our time together. I was often surprised by the number of attendees who, not only didn’t have concerns in advance, but had few comments or questions as I reviewed the prepared materials and information. This is not to say that the parents I met with didn’t care about their children’s progress or have concerns. They absolutely did. And as the school year progressed, they became more comfortable speaking with me and sharing information. But that first conference can be nerve racking for both sides.
Parent-teacher conferences are an opportunity to have a candid conversation about your child’s strengths and needs. It’s a great time to learn ways to support your child at home and offer information that may help the teacher understand him or her better. However, the event itself can be intimidating. Between feeling rushed to fit the event into an already busy schedule and simply hoping to escape without hearing any negative feedback about behavior or grades, it’s sometimes viewed as something to get through as quickly as possible. For teachers, it’s often the first real impression the parents will have of how they do their jobs. For parents, it’s the moment they learn if their child is doing well or has challenges. In a way, both parties are hoping for the same thing: a good review.
Since parents and teachers both have busy schedules, it’s important to make the most of the first and every parent/teacher conference. These meetings present an opportunity to have an open discussion about your child. The following tips may help you achieve that goal.
Organize a few questions you would like to bring up during the meeting beforehand. Involve your child. Talk about what things he or she feels are going well about the school year as well as some of the challenges. Children and teachers often have entirely different perspectives on this subject. And so, exploring both sides may lead to a better understanding between the two afterwards. Social concerns are just as important as academic ones and can significantly impact performance. Consider asking about your child’s interactions with peers, class participation, the quality of work on in-class assignments and homework, and upcoming events or curriculum. During parent-teacher conferences, asking what you can do to support your child at home, even when no progress concerns are shared, can benefit everyone involved.
Ask for Explanations When Uncertain
At times, during parent-teacher conferences educators can use terms or refer to tools, such as specific diagnostic assessments, that parents are unfamiliar with. Don’t be afraid to ask for an explanation if anything is unclear. The goal of the meeting is for all parties to leave learning a little bit more about how to make this a successful school year for your child. Clarifying anything you’re uncertain about can help achieve this.
Share Information That May Be Helpful
Most of the teacher’s knowledge of your child comes from school records and interactions with students during the school day. Some children are more than happy to inform others about their feelings and concerns. Some may prefer to remain silent about important issues affecting their behavior. Sharing a bit more about your child’s interests, needs and changes outside of school that may be impacting motivation, understanding, or actions can make a significant difference in the classroom. For example, an older sibling going off to college can have an emotional impact on everyone. A close family member recovering from illness or an accident or upsetting experiences at a previous school can also influence a child’s response to class activities. The more your teacher knows, the more he or she can assist and provide support.
Parents and teacher are in this together. And the ultimate goal of each interaction should be how to best support each child on their educational journey. Thinking about what you would like to discuss ahead of the first conference, asking questions, and volunteering information that may enhance the teacher’s understanding of your child’s needs and interests can help everyone have a better experience during that first conference and the year ahead.