Parent teacher conferences are one of the most important opportunities for teachers, administrators and parents to discuss a child’s academic performance and achievements as well as social. But it can be a stressful time for parents. Parents wonder what exactly they will be told by the one person who spends almost as much time every day with their child (and sometimes more) as they do. There are a few helpful tips to help parents make the most of their parent teacher conference, not only in finding out information, but in forming a lasting relationship with honest communication with your child’s teacher.
Be a prepared parent
Throughout the year keep your child’s work in a folder divided by terms. Go through the folder and pull out items that are cause for concern for you. Your teacher will also have work samples specially designed to show you, but it helps you if you review the work that your child may have had problems with the teacher so you may help them in the future.
Ask your child if they have any concerns. Make a list of those concerns whether they are on the playground or in the classroom. Even social problems can affect their success in school. If you are not sure what to ask consider using the Planning Form from Schwab Learning.org.
Make a list of your questions. By having my questions ready for my 20 minute time slot I was more organized and focused and better able to address the concerns necessary. Not sure which questions to ask? You may want to use:
What are my child’s weaknesses or strength’s?
What can I do to help them with learning at home?
Does my child get along with the other students? If not, how or why?
How can we work together to challenge or support my child?
Be respectful of time
Arrive early for the possible opportunity to have a few extra minutes with your teacher or provide your teacher the opportunity to get out sooner than anticipated. Remember if you are late or go over time then you are not only affecting her schedule, but that of the next parent.
Compliment your teacher on their work or a success. Thank them for taking the time to meet with you. Yes, P/T Conferences have to be offered but it doesn’t hurt to start off on a positive note, much like you would for a business meeting or an interview. A parent teacher conference is just like a business meeting, it is getting down the business of your child’s educational success.
Stay on topic and don’t waste your time or your teacher’s by discussing things that have nothing to do with the classroom or your child’s academic, emotional and social skills. Stick to the script. I remember the first parent-teacher conference my husband attended. As a professor at a university and a new dad (step parent) he had many, many questions to ask. While I appreciated his interest in his step child’s education, we didn’t manage to respect the time or stay focused.
A parent teacher conference offers an opportunity for both parents and teachers to participate in the discussion. This also means offering ideas, opinions and suggestions. Some teachers can use and others they may not be able to. Remember that there are rules and procedures in every school district that must be followed. It is also important to listen to what the teacher has to say, even when it is hard to hear and consider including his or her recommendations as part of your parenting plan to achieve academic success for your child.
According to many studies parental involvement is essential to student success, “The more successful our children are in school the more confident and successful they will be in other aspects of their lives. According to one study, “Children whose parents are involved in their formal education have many advantages. They have better grades, test scores, long-term academic achievement, attitudes, and behavior than those with disinterested mothers and fathers.” (Anne T. Henderson 1988)
Parent teacher conferences are designed to provide parents with opportunities to be involved in the process of their child’s education and to find ways together to help you child do their very best. Don’t miss out on making the most of this opportunity to work with your teacher and for your child.
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National Education Association (NEA)
Harvard Family Research Project Conference Tips Sheets