Decades of research shows that students learn more, have higher grades and have better attendance when their parents are involved in school. That’s why parent-teacher conferences are so important: They help us to be involved and stay involved with our child’s education throughout the school year.
We expect to hear about our child’s academic performance at a parent-teacher conference, as well as about some of what is happening in the classroom. Typically the teacher will share a bit about expectations (though sometimes this material was covered at a back-to-school night or open house), something that could prove valuable as we help our children navigate the school year.
We should also use this time to share what we know about our child – for example, his/her personality and learning style. Any insight we provide can help the teacher better understand and teach our child.
But with only 20 to 30 minutes for a conference, there’s not a lot of time for in-depth conversation. A little pre-planning can go a long way toward helping you make the most of your personal time with the teacher.
Where to begin? The best way to start is by writing things down. Keeping track of what you want to cover during the conference session will help make the conference effective and efficient.
- Review the work your child brings home in the days/weeks leading up to the conference. Does it show effort? Is there something that appears to be causing a problem? Jot down notes if you think there is a concept your child is having trouble grasping. The teacher may be able to offer ideas for how you can support your child at home.
- Make observations about your child’s homework habits. Does your child work best in a quiet space after school, or does she need to unwind first? Does he prefer total silence when doing math homework? Does she tend to talk out loud when she is writing? Some of your observations may give your child’s teacher insight into the type of environment that is most conducive for your child to learn.
- Think about your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Are there areas he/she has struggled with in the past? Again, the teacher might be able to give you suggestions for how to support your child at home.
- Is your child a visual, verbal or auditory learner, or some combination of both? (See Parent Today post on learning styles.)
Think about questions/concerns you’d like to cover:
- Is my child on par with students his/her age with regard to academic development? Social -emotional development?
- Does my child hand in homework on time?
- Does my child interact with other children? Can he work in a group? Does she get along with others?
- What can I do at home to help my child?
- I don’t understand his math homework; how can I help him?
- What is the best way to keep in touch about my child’s progress?
- Are there new initiatives in the classroom?
A few other things to remember:
- Let the teacher know if an in-school meeting is problem, and schedule a phone conference.
- Let the school know as soon as possible if you will need an interpreter.
Remember that you, your child and the teacher are all on the same team. You’re working together to ensure your child’s academic success. Understanding what is expected in the classroom can help you, as a parent, address any issues that come up during the school year.
Equally important: When we attend a parent-teacher conference, it tells our children that school is important and that they – and their education – matter to us.