This is the time of year that schools start to hold their parent-teacher conferences. Will you be ready? Are you making time to attend your child’s parent-teacher conference?
Last spring, Parenting Magazine editorial director, Ana Connery addressed the Mom Congress with the theme of Parent Teacher Partnerships. She relayed a story about having interviewed President Obama and pointing out that he attended his daughters’ conferences with their teachers. She illustrated the point, that if the President of the United States, with all of his responsibilities and demands, can make time for a parent-teacher conference, so could everyone else.
There is nothing more important for your child’s success than support at home. You are your child’s first teacher. Parent involvement is key. It is important to view your relationship with the teacher as a partnership. You are both on the same side and share the goal of supporting your child’s education.
Keep in mind that teachers have spent time preparing for the conference. This includes gathering records, work samples, test scores, and their thoughts about your child. They are eager to share ways to help your child do their best in school and welcome parental support. Parents can prepare as well by knowing what to expect, asking questions, sharing their own perspective on their child and showing a willingness to listen.
Once committed to making the time, how can parents prepare? There are multitudes of resources available and perhaps your school has even sent home suggestions in a newsletter. Here are a few from our district’s newsletter.
Before the Conference
Decide what you want to ask the teacher. Discuss the forthcoming conference with your child to see if there is anything she/he would like you to talk about with the teacher. Check with your spouse and decide which aspects of your child’s schoolwork are puzzling or worrying you. Ideally, both parents should attend the conference.
Determine what you can tell the teacher about your child. The teacher sees only one side of your child. There may be things you know about your child that could help the teacher better understand her or him.
Get a babysitter if you have young children. Do not bring younger brothers or sisters to the conference. They may not only be disruptive, but they may also repeat what they hear.
Be on time. Write down your appointment time and arrive promptly. The teacher may have appointments after yours.
After the Conference
Start immediately on any action you have decided to take. Discuss the conference with your child. First, point out strengths. Then talk about the areas that need improvement. Begin at once to follow through with the plan you and the teacher decided upon.
I would also add following up a month or so later with the teacher to see if your plan is working or needs any adjustments.
Not sure what to ask?
Some questions to start with include- is your child performing at his or her grade level? What are their strengths and what needs improvement? Request suggestions for some specific things you can do with your child at home. If needed, find out what services the school provides to help your child.
While some students might need support, others may be needing a challenge. Teachers should be able to accommodate students that are performing above grade level as well. Be sure to share your own thoughts about your child and their learning style.
VolunteerSpot has put together several helpful questions:
1. What would you say are my child’s strengths & learning opportunities?
2. How is my child’s behavior and what does it tell you about my child’s learning style?
3. How should I track my child’s performance? Are there examples of my child’s work?
4. Do you have suggestions for things we can do at home to better support my child’s learning?
5. Are my child’s assignments completed on time and at an appropriate performance level?
6. What types of books and educational games do you recommend for my learner? Is there a list of suggested readings?
7. How is my child getting along socially with other children?
8. What am I not asking or noticing that I should be?
These suggestions were provided by the Harvard Family Research Project:
Make a plan- take notes regarding what you and the teacher have decided to do to support your child and check in with the teacher in the coming months
Reconnect with the Teacher- schedule a follow up time to talk. Be sure you know how to contact the teacher (phone, email, or notes) and make sure your communication goes both ways.
Talk to Your Child- the focus of the conference is your child, so be sure to include your child. Explain what you talked about with the teacher and reassure them you will help them at home.
I have always had positive relationships with my children’s teachers. I have seen firsthand how a child can put forth their best effort and reach their potential just through more communication with their teacher and closer parental involvement. Last year was one of real growth for my son. I had met with his teacher, shared my concerns, and asked for help in order to meet our specific goal. Knowing that we were a team- my son had one of his most successful years. Sometimes discussing the importance of doing your best and providing specific expectations and support combined with knowing you have caring adults on your side can bring out the best in your child. Try it at your child's conference this year.
Good luck with your conferences! Please comment, share, or tweet. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org