How to Get the Most Out of a Parent-Teacher Conference

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.

THM-Parent-Teacher-Conference-TipsTo many of my mommy friends the parent-teacher conference is one of the most dreaded meetings to have at school– the other being called to the Principals office!.

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.

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-image-backpack-school-supplies-spilling-out-image10695781From there, I make a list of questions I want to ask his teacher, with my most important ones right up front. Some of the questions I’ll be asking my son’s teacher include:

  • 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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Comments

  1. says

    Communication is certainly key. Kiddo goes to school 30min away as she lives with her mom during the week and is with us (her dad) on the weekends. Sometimes we get a good teacher that will keep hubs in the loop and sometimes we get one that has no communication so we never know what is going on. Hubs works hospital hours so its rare he can go to a conference.
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  2. says

    I love Parent-Teacher conferences. As a former educator it is really nice to see what the other side of the table feels like. I find that it is a great way to create a partnership with your child’s teacher. I volunteer in the classroom (I am blessed to be able to do so) and I see the kids and how my son behaves. So it is really nice to hear how he is when I am not there. Great tips! Thanks.
    Laura recently posted..#DIY Faux Nail Head Trimmed Cork BoardMy Profile

  3. Pam says

    I think its very important that parents ask about how they can help at home! Because there is so much they can do to make their child’s time at score better and more productive,

  4. Catherine S says

    15 minutes doesn’t sound like a lot of time for a parent-teacher conference. I never had to deal with this since we home schooled our son.

    • TheHarriedMom says

      I agree with you 15 minutes slots are silly. I’ve already been in touch with my son’s teacher and plan to keep in touch throughout the school year!

    • TheHarriedMom says

      I agree with you. I ask my most important question first – sometimes we don’t get time for more than that!

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