By Lisa Edwards, Parent Coach
Have you ever gone to a parent teacher conference and wondered why you went? Too often, parents are hustled through this 15 – 20 minute timeslot with a tired teacher who they can tell is giving the same spiel to everyone. But this meeting is actually critical to your child’s education. Parents are key to their child’s education, yet as a former educator, there were times when the only time I saw parents were during these short parent teacher conferences.
As parents, you need to make the most of this time with your child’s teacher(s). Therefore, it is important to be purposeful about how you approach this meeting. It will make a huge difference for you, the teacher and more importantly, your child if you are engaged in this process.
Following our Parenting with Purpose framework, here are the best ways to make the most out of your parent teacher conferences.
Here are some key pieces that you should know before you go.
1. Understand how long you will have with the teacher – I have seen parent teacher conferences set up for as short as 10 minutes. This is not a long time if you have a specific topic you want to discuss. Other times I have seen them as long as 30 minutes. You will want to know this before you go into the meeting.
2. Make sure you have an understanding of how your child may be doing so far – Look at work that they have bright home, check online if there is any grades that have been posted by the school.
3. Call/Email ahead for information you may want – Before going to the conference, reach out to the teachers if there is specific information that you want. They may be able to send it to you beforehand, or at the very least, have it at the conference.
4. Ask your child – Do they have anything they want you to discuss at the conference? Is there anything they are really proud of in school, or do they have questions about anything?
- Come prepared with questions in mind – You will get the most out of the conference, if you come with at least some questions in mind. Here are a few things you could ask.
- Academics – How is their work completion? How have they done on the state tests? Classroom Assessments?
- Social – Do they have friends? Are they kind? Do they work well with other students? Are they more of an introvert or extrovert at school?
- Emotional – Ask about their personal skills such as perseverance, handling disappointment, their ability to stay focused.
- Talk about what your child is doing well. You want to make sure the teacher knows your child and you can help your child grow from their strengths.
During the conference
Be present, listen (put your phones away and don’t bring siblings to conferences.)
After the conference, you may still have some lingering questions. Think about what you heard. What follow up questions do you have.
If things didn’t go well, or you left upset, make sure to know what it is that upset you…the way the teacher said something, the support your child needs?
Really think about what the teacher was saying. Sometimes they are very positive in how they discuss what your child needs, and in my opinion a little too positive.
Follow up with deeper questions. Perhaps the teacher mentioned that they “sometimes have a hard time staying on task”. What does this mean? Ask for more specifics.
Don’t hesitate to contact the teacher again and ask for another conference if you need it.
If things went well, a great tip is to email the teacher and say thank you. They don’t hear that enough (Parents don’t hear it enough either). This is a great way to build a relationship with the teacher and keep things positive.
If you find out that your child is struggling, make sure to ask the teacher how they are planning to support your child and how you can support them at home as well. It is a team effort to educate the child.
If your child is struggling…this is difficult. Follow up meetings, or information is key. Understand that most teachers care and are really trying to help your child. As parents, it is hard to keep ourselves from becoming emotional when we hear that things might not be going well. If you need additional support, contact the school counselor or even the school administrator and ask them to be a part of future meetings. It takes a village.
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