It is that time again, and little slips of paper are being sent home with your children, requesting a time when you and the teacher can get together to discuss your child’s progress. These conferences offer the perfect chance to find out how well little Johnny is adjusting to his new class, more challenging studies, and the new teacher.
Often, parent-teacher conferences turn out to be nothing more than a brag session between two people who have one thing in common: both of you care about your child’s education. The conference is a time for you to understand where your child ranks academically.
To get the most out of your conference, here are a few tips:
- Spend some time discussing school with your child – Hopefully you are having a daily rap session about your kid’s day at school. The secret is to listen for what your child might not be saying. He or she may have questions, misconceptions, frustrations or fears. Talk about his or her feelings about the teacher, classmates and staff
- Make a list of questions or concerns to bring with you – Coming prepared to the conference shows you care about your child’s education, and will establish you as an equal participant.
- Don’t be late – These meetings are usually scheduled in unrealistic blocks of time, and often run over the time limit as it is. (Plus, your promptness reflects well on your child).
- Use positives from the very beginning – The teacher will warm up to you if he or she believes you aren’t in defense mode. Often parents have a hard time hearing critical comments about their kids and come off defensive or hostile before dialogue has even begun.
- Stay focused on the matter at hand – Yes, it is great to spend an hour chatting about how wonderful the new gymnasium is or about the next fundraiser, but that’s not what the conference is for. Teachers won’t be able to get through all the important details if you manipulate the conversation. Sit back and listen. Your time will come to respond.
- Try to keep your mind open to the teacher’s ideas and concerns – It’s easy to get emotional and feel your child is under personal attack if someone seems to be openly criticising your child. No one is blaming you for your child for not knowing all the multiplication facts, or not being able to spell. The teacher just wants you to know where the student is weak academically, so a plan can be made to improve those areas.
- Take notes and discuss everything later with your son or daughter – Get their imput on what was discussed and ask them how they feel about what was said. Keeping the information from your kid is a surefire way to breed contempt, if it looks like the adults are ganging up or plotting against them. Be honest and direct so everyone is on the same page.
- Remember, the teacher’s ed plan may or may not be the best one for your child. Do your homework before assessing the situation. It takes the student, the parent, the teacher, and the school system to turn out smart kids.