Does the thought of sitting down with your child’s teacher make you squirm in your seat like a second grader? It shouldn’t, but it is surprising just how many adults find the face-to-face meeting with a teacher an uncomfortable experience.
The purpose of parent-teacher conferences is to inform parents about their child’s progress and to strengthen the home-school partnership. These meetings can be crucial to establishing a strong communications bridge between the most important people in a student’s life and promoting a positive attitude toward school for students and families.
Preparing for the parent-teacher conference can be as important for parents as it is for educators, or more so. In some cases, the schedule may only allow for 15 to 20 minutes with the teacher. To make the most of that time, it can help to take a few minutes beforehand to determine how you can help guide the conversation and ensure that the most important topics are covered. It also pays to be mindful during the conversation and proactive afterwards to keep the dialogue going throughout the school year.
In creating a productive parent-teacher relationship, here are some simple things you will want to consider:
- Talk to your child first. The day before you are scheduled to meet with the teacher, talk to your child about specific concerns related to school work or his or her relationship with the teacher and classmates. Ask your child about what he or she enjoys most or dislikes about being in the classroom. Reassure a child who may be nervous about your meeting that it is a conversation you are looking forward to.
- Write down your questions. There are plenty of online resources that can help you with what questions you should be asking of your teachers. They can be found on Education.com, Care.com and VeryWellFamily.com. However, if you don’t jot some of them down ahead of time, you risk being sidetracked by the conversation once you reach the classroom.
- Be on time. Whether it is before or after school or during a formal teacher-parent conference, a teacher’s time is especially limited and must be shared with dozens of families (or more). Respect their time by arriving on schedule.
- Re-introduce your child. No matter how well a teacher may know his or her students, the truth is no one knows your child the way you do. Share an example or two of what you think makes your child happy, or anxious, or simply unique. This insight can be extremely valuable to a teacher and can sometimes breathe new life into the parent-student connection.
- Take notes. You won’t remember everything your child’s teacher has to say. Bring something to write with and on.
- Make it about the student. A 2010 study from the University of New Hampshire found that the teacher-parent conference is often less about the student and more about parents and teachers getting the chance to evaluate one another. Try to remember to keep the focus on your child and resist the urge to spend time proving you are a “good parent.” Just being there says a lot.
- Continue the conversation. The most significant factor in a student’s success is parent involvement, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Once you have established a relationship with your child’s teacher, you will want to keep that rapport going throughout the year. Set a time to follow up with an email or phone call regarding your child’s progress and/or make plans to meet again.
JoEllen Gardner has been a communications specialist with the Capital Region BOCES Communications Service since 2011. She has three grown sons. By her own estimates, she has survived nearly 85 parent-teacher conferences.
Copyright ©2016 by Parent Today and Capital Region BOCES; Used with permission