How to Get the Most out of Parent-Teacher Conferences

How to get the most out of Parent-Teacher ConferencesParent-teacher conferences are right around the corner, and you may be wondering how to make the most out of that short amount of time with your child’s teacher.  Whether it’s your first conference or you’re looking to make this one more productive than past ones, there are a few basic guidelines you can follow to make the most out of those conferences.

Do your homework.

It helps if you can arrive to the conference with a clear idea of what kinds of grades your child has been receiving and what feedback the teacher has provided. Being prepared will allow you time to compile your thoughts into questions you have rather than remember that thing you meant to bring up after you get home.

Parent Teacher Conference Tip Sheet

The Harvard Family Research Project has compiled a tip sheet for everyone involved in a parent-teacher conference, and it’s definitely worth a look. 

It’s a two-way street.

While your child’s teacher is certainly there to answer any questions you have, remember that you are there to listen as well.  Your child’s teacher has insight on how your child learns, interacts with other students, and behaves in the classroom setting.  Both yours and the teacher’s ability to listen to the parts of your child’s life not seen on a daily basis provides valuable context.

On that note, I know it can be difficult for any parent to sit idly by while someone you don’t know very well discusses your child’s weaknesses, but do your best to just listen.  Don’t be argumentative.  This teacher puts a great deal of effort into helping your child succeed on a daily basis, so if he or she is telling you that your child is not completing homework assignments, you can bet it’s with good reason.  Try to understand that this comes from a place of concern, not a place of maliciousness.

Be considerate.

Parent-teacher night is just one short meeting for you, but for the teacher, it’s a barrage of meetings following a long work day.  Be respectful of the teacher’s time by ensuring you show up at least a few minutes early to your appointment.  If you only have twenty minutes to discuss your child’s academic well-being, you won’t do yourself any favors by missing out on half of that by not allowing for traffic.

Also understand that the brevity of the appointment means you should budget your time carefully.  If there’s a big issue you want to make sure gets addressed, start with that.  If you find that the meeting time is coming to a close but you still have things to discuss, ask the teacher if you can schedule another meeting at a convenient time for you both.

Follow up.

Regardless of whether or not you are able to fit everything you wanted to discuss within the appointment, you need to open lines of potential communication.  Set up a good contact method with your child’s teacher, and make sure he or she can contact you as well.  Settle on a convenient form of communication should any future issues arise (phone call, email, meeting, etc).

You’ll also want to schedule a follow-up meeting down the road if the next parent-teacher conference is too far away.  Keeping in touch about developing issues regarding your child will make those occasional face-to-face meetings go more smoothly, and it will also show your child’s teacher that you are committed to helping at home with any problems in the classroom.

Consider how to improve areas of weakness.

One ideal way to help your child if he or she is showing clear signs of struggling with a subject at school is to enroll him or her in an after-school enrichment program.  This will provide him or her with extra practice in topics that may have been confusing at first pass in school, and it can also boost confidence in stronger areas, among other amazing benefits.

A private tutor may also be an option for your child if you feel that his or her progress is tough to nail down (e.g., your child can multiply but struggles with borrowing in subtraction, or your child is almost ready to move up a grade level but needs additional assistance before making that move).

Most importantly, maintain communication with your child and his or her teacher.  It’s important that your child doesn’t feel he or she is being talked about rather than talked to, and the teacher should always be kept in the loop of educational matters.

What tips have you found are helpful in making a parent-teacher conference productive?  Do you feel prepared for the next one on the calendar?  Let us know!

By Victoria Kerns, Teacher at A Grade Ahead

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