It’s that time of year again- report cards, statewide assessments, and of course Cabin Fever! Yep, kids are anxiously awaiting Spring Break, while teachers are vigorously preparing for another round of Parent-Teacher Conferences!
As a parent, this is your opportunity to get a sneak peak into the academic and behavioral growth and development of your child- from a professional. AKA, your child’s teacher(s). Conferences are your time to view artifacts of work, ask questions, praise and set goals with your child. Every district is different in how they conduct Parent-Teacher conferences. Whether it is Student-led, Student-involved, or solely Parent-Teacher, you can help your teacher provide you exactly what you’re hoping to gain out of this conference time.
Here are 10 Tips for a Successful Conference:
- Be prepared! Read the report card before you attend conferences. Note any questions or concerns you want to discuss with the teacher.
- Contact teacher prior to conference. If there is something specific you want to discuss or see, make the teacher aware of this before your conference. Along with that, if it is something she will need to compile, give her plenty of time to prepare. For example, if you want to see specifics on her reading accuracy, your child’s teacher will have her file and talking points all ready when you come to conferences, rather than trying to piece it together during your 20 minute conference time.
- Voice your concerns without accusations. Similar to number 2, if there is a concern you have, it would be best to make the teacher aware of it prior to your meeting. This way she won’t feel caught off guard, or like you are accusing her.
- Be respectful of time. This is why it’s important to be prepared, as conference times are usually twenty minutes. You want to get the most out of the time you have. Also, the teacher has other parents to meet. So if you go over by ten minutes, not only have you added time to an already full schedule for your teacher, but you’ve interfered with other families times.
- Advocate for your child- don’t side with your child. To explain this, I’ll share a personal story. One year I had a student who struggled to make positive behavior choices. This was something that had been addressed with parents and recorded on the report card. During the conference time, the child read a letter he wrote when he had to stay in for recess. After reading, the water-works immedietly started to flow. Instead of using this as a time for explanation and expectation, the parent said, “It’s okay honey, everything is perfect!” The child escaped any consequence from home, and not surprisingly, his behavior did not improve. You are your child’s biggest fan. You should expect the best for him. There is no blame in trying to give your child every opportunity to succeed, but not at the sake of giving-in to your child’s every desire.
- Follow-through. If you say you are going to work on math facts at home, do it. If you say you are going to have your child finish incomplete work, do it. If you say you’re going to follow-up with the teacher in 4 weeks, do it. The teacher should do the same!
- Don’t address concerns in front of child. If you are worried about an academic area, do not say it in front of your child. Trust me- I’ve seen this crush kids’ spirits. Your child wants to know that you think she is capable. If she perceives you think she is dumb, she will believe it and it will be harder to make academic gains. The best way to do this is to either ask the child to leave the room or set up another time to address the issue without the child present.
- Know what is District or school versus Teacher. A teacher cannot control what week conferences fall on, nor what curriculum he teaches, not even the price of the books at the book fair. He can control, however, how he arranges the desks, or how much homework he gives, or how he handles rules and expectations in his classroom. If you have concerns with how the school or district operate, attend PTA, a board meeting, or address the appropriate administration. If you don’t know who to ask, you can ask your teacher where to address your concern appropriately.
- Remember you both want what is best for the child! Be a TEAM! Research shows that when parents and teachers work together, the child becomes more invested in school and in turn performs better. One of my first years of teaching, I had a parent who ran a very different home from how I ran my classroom. She was more strict and very routine and orderly. I was a strong advocate for natural and logical consequences and more laid back. At the beginning of the year she was in my room a lot. Asking questions, seeking clarifications, and wanting to know my expectations for things. Many teachers could’ve taken this personally, like she didn’t trust me. Or even asked her to leave. However, this mom was very respectful of me, she just wanted to make sure she knew everything so she could send her son to school every morning prepared for success. We were a team, and in fact, by the time I had her other kids, she rarely stopped in, other than to just chat about sports or the latest TV shows.
- Say thank you. It’s simple, but it goes along way.
Teachers: Here is a Survey you can send to Parents prior to conferences: Parent Teacher Conference Survey