The first quarter of school is quickly coming to an end and with that will be Parent-Teacher Conferences. At my kids’ middle school, they have something called “Touching Bases.” It’s a three-hour block of time where all the teachers gather in a giant room, and all the parents run from teacher to teacher getting their “conference” about their child. I have two kids with six teachers each; that’s 12 teachers I will meet with. I have no idea what to expect. It sounds like speed dating; it sounds awful.
Regardless of how your school structures its parent-teacher conferences, here’s our advice as you head into this year’s first round of feedback on your child.
Bring your child with you: If your school’s motto is “We Are A Team” then bring the star player with you – your child. Bringing everyone to the table to review progress, highlight strengths, and develop a plan for improving weaknesses keeps everyone on the same page. Note: If this is not a common practice at your school make sure to let the teacher know before the conference. Excuse the child when necessary if you or the teacher need some one-one talking time.
Ask for other educators to be present: If you know your child is receiving services or help from other professionals at school, ask ahead of time if those people can be present as well.
Take notes: There will be things you will want to remember from your conference. Don’t get caught writing on a grocery store receipt. Download our Parent-Teacher Conference Meeting Notes to help you keep track of the discussion.
Listen first: Let the teacher do most of the talking in the beginning. It’s their time to tell you about your child. Children may act differently at school than at home so have an open mind and be an active listener. Fight the urge to run the meeting until the teacher is finished.
Be prepared: Review your child’s grades, work, notices or projects before the conference. Brainstorm a list of questions for the teacher before you get there so you have something to refer to during the conference. This is YOUR time to clarify what is happening in the classroom with your child.
Share insights into your child’s learning or behavior: Be open and honest about situations going on at home, or how your child’s unique traits may be impacting their learning and behavior.
Follow-up: Make a plan to follow up on items talked about during the meeting. Usually conference are on a short time table, but don’t let the clock stop you from being an advocate for your child. Schedule a follow-up conference after a few weeks to review any trouble areas your child be having.
Call in reinforcements: Don’t be scared to solicit help from the principal or school counselor if you feel like you are unable to find resolution at the Parent Teacher Conference. Sometimes a third party is exactly what you need to find middle ground.
The Harvard Family Research Project suggest that parents “BE HEARD!”
Keep these principles in mind for a great parent–teacher conference:
Parent-teacher conferences are a great way to connect with the teacher one-on-one and visit the school. It is your time to learn about your child as a student and show the teachers you are engaged in your child’s learning. Take advantage of the time they give you and be empowered to help your child succeed.