It’s that time of year again, time for parent-teacher conferences. Over the next few days at my son’s elementary school parents and teachers will sit across from each other in tiny, uncomfortable chairs to discuss their child’s progress.
I don’t dread these meetings, but I usually don’t find them very informative. Teachers are slammed, seeing families back-to-back in 15 minute intervals. It’s more like a speed dating session than having a meaningful conversation about my son’s progress.
However, I do think that parent-teacher conferences are important because it’s one of only a handful of times throughout the year that I get some actual “face time” with my son’s teacher. It’s a chance for me to show his teacher that I’m an involved parent and who genuinely cares and wants to know what is going on in the classroom.
I don’t use my conference as a time to criticize my child’s teacher or talk about standardized tests. These conferences are a great opportunity to gauge where my son is academically in the classroom but also where he fits in socially among his peers.
I think to have a successful parent-teacher conference parents need to do a little homework before showing up. I like to ask my son how he feels about school. I ask him point-blank if there is anything he wants me to talk about with his teacher.
- What are my child’s strongest and weakest subjects?
- Does my child participate in class?
- Does my child seem happy at school?
- What can I do at home to help?
When it comes to the actual parent-teacher conference itself, I always make sure to arrive early. With only a few precious minutes to spend with my child’s teacher, I don’t want to be late. Being tardy shortens the time I have to talk with his teacher and it is also inconsiderate of the other parent conferences scheduled after yours.
I go into the meeting with the right attitude, a positive one. I do not want to put my child’s teacher on the defensive; I figure I’ll never learn anything of value that way. This conference isn’t a tit for tat, whose right and whose wrong – it’s about an exchange of information about my child and how he is doing in school. I make sure to address any issues or concerns in a respectful tone and manner.
I also use the conference as a tool, to find out how best to communicate with my son’s teacher for the rest of the school year. I ask my son’s teacher what’s the best way to reach them with any post-conference about any issues or concerns I may have or even questions about homework/assignments. Teachers are more than happy to tell you the best way to communicate with them. Some teachers are whizzes at email while others prefer notes tucked into their child’s homework folder, while others prefer a more personal touch such as talking on the phone. It’s a great way to reinforce to my child’s teacher that I am available and interested in what happens in the classroom.
Post-conference I fill my son in on the meeting. I start with all the positive things their teacher had to say about them. Children live for praise and positive feedback – and that encourages good behaviors. If applicable, I’ll fill my son in on any concerns and share any action plans discussed to help him to continue succeeding in the classroom.
Now it’s your turn to share. What’s your tips for a successful parent-teacher conference?
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