How to Get the Most out of Parent-Teacher Conferences

How to Get the Most out of Parent-Teacher Conferences

top-wrapperPlan Your Conference “Must Discuss” Topics

Parent-teacher conferences offer a short time for you to meet with your child’s teacher.  It’s a time for you to know how your child is doing- what successes she is having and where she may be struggling.ShutterstockParent Teacher Conference

Before the Conference

1) Sign up for conferences early!  If you have limited available times to meet, this will enable you to schedule during your most-preferred times.

2) Know what you want to know about your child.  Make a list of what you want to know about how your child is doing.  Do you know how he is performing in core subjects?  Is he completing all homework in a timely manner?  Is he prepared for tests?  How is he doing socially (does he have some friends)?  How is his behavior (is he attentive and respectful in class)?

3) Ask your child what she thinks her teacher will want to tell you.  This will give you insight as to how your child thinks she is doing and what your child thinks the teacher thinks of her abilities, performance, and behavior.

4) Get involved in the classroom.  If you can volunteer even once before conferences, you will find out how the classroom functions and how your child is performing within the classroom structure.

5) Understand the causes of “bad” grades. As a parent, don’t just focus on the end result: the grade. Look at why the grades may be suffering and make a plan to help your child rectify the problem. If your child is missing assignments, he may need help with executive functioning skills. He needs a system for organizing his materials to make sure he knows where to find his completed homework. Or, he may need an effective way to help him know what homework he has each night.

During the Conference

If you have concerns about your child, this is the time to get some brief answers.  You may discover that your expectations are not realistic- either too high OR too low.  Perhaps your daughter is ahead of her peers in reading, despite not performing at the same level as your older daughter.  Perhaps your son is very diligent about keeping his desk clean and organized, despite his struggles to do so at home.

Form an Alliance with Your Child’s Teacher

Know that you are both there for the same goal:  to help your child perform to his fullest potential.

  • Listen to the teacher’s comments and observations of your child.
  • Ask questions based on what the teacher has presented.
  • Try to be neutral:  If the teacher recommends extra support, try to view it positively.  The teacher is seeing a need and wants to help your child succeed.

Obtain and Present the Information Needed

You may be a little nervous, especially at the first conference of the year.  This is normal.  You probably don’t know the teacher well and the teacher is just starting to get to know your child.  To help you learn what your teacher is learning and share information that would be helpful for the teacher:

  • Write down or record (with teacher’s permission) what is discussed, so you can process the information later.
  • Ask relevant questions:  How is your child performing in:  math, science, reading, writing, social studies, and with staff and peers?
  • Give the teacher information about any recent family changes, upcoming events (even positive events can create stress for your child and impact your child’s performance), or stressors.

Leave the Conference Empowered

You will learn a great deal about your child during the conference (even if it’s only for a few minutes).  Some of this information will be contrary to how your child performs at home.  This is normal.   Before you leave the conference, have a follow up plan, if needed.  Ask how and when the teacher prefers to be contacted with any additional questions, concerns, or insight you may have.  Does she prefer to be emailed or called?  Does she prefer to speak during a planning period, before, or after school?  Don’t forget to let the teacher know the best ways to contact you.

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