With Back-To-School Nights in full swing across the country, parents, teachers and school administrators share valuable information on individual students as well as the school year ahead. At the same time, at these annual school gatherings, family members are often required to schedule parent-teacher conferences. Of course, finding a date when you and your child’s homeroom teacher can review the student progress report is the easy part. Making those parent-teacher conferences count is a little more challenging.
Are you scheduled for a parent-teacher conference this fall? Tired of rushing into these meetings unprepared? Want to make this year’s parent-teacher discussion more productive? Check out these Top 10 Tips for Making Parent-Teacher Conferences Count. Sure to make a big difference with parents, students and teachers alike.
1. Schedule additional time with your child’s teacher. Just because your kid’s school only allows for 10-15 minute visits with each teacher, it doesn’t mean that you can’t schedule additional time for a more focused appointment. Call, write or email your child’s teacher to set up a meeting. Discuss what kinds of issues have emerged with your child and why you believe additional time with the teacher would be helpful.
2. Write it down. Don’t go into any meeting with a teacher or administrator unprepared. Instead, write down or list out the concerns and issues you want to talk about during the parent-teacher conference. It can be so frustrating a meeting rambles on and one and nothing seems to get done. By developing an agenda for this discussion, you’ll do a lot to keep the meeting organized and focused.
3. Share information in advance of the meeting. If you want the teacher or administrator to be prepared for the discussion ahead, make sure you share some thoughts on what’s happening or issues that have you or your family members concerned. If your child seems to be struggling with this subject or that class, sharing ideas on this ahead of the meeting may help the teacher or school administrator pull up the requisite information or data that will inform the discussion.
4. Check in with your child. Make sure you don’t meet with your child’s teacher without your child knowing about it. Engage your child in discussing what’s going well in the classroom, and what isn’t. Get a sense of what’s happening course by course, teacher by teacher, if possible. Talk about what your goals are in terms of meeting with the teacher or administrator. Ask for ideas on what to raise or discuss. (Of course, how specific you are with your child will depend upon the age of your child. As your child gets older, you may want to include your child in the meeting itself.)
5. Approach the meeting in a positive fashion. There’s no need to approach the teacher or administrator as enemy-combatant. Rather, approach the meeting in a positive way, prepared to discuss what’s going well and what concerns you may have about what isn’t. Your positive nature will set the stage for a good discussion rather than defensiveness or posturing on your part or that of the teacher or school administrator.
6. Ask lots of questions. Don’t do all the talking. Rather, prepare and raise questions about the issues at hand. Listen carefully to the responses. Ask for examples or clarification. Take notes, as needed.
7. Reach agreement on appropriate next steps. Collaborate and agree on steps that are likely to help both at home and at school. Don’t forget to keep your child “in the loop.” This is especially important when your child is in the best position to tell you if things have improved or not.
8. Schedule another parent-teacher conference. Bring information on what’s working and what isn’t working. See if additional follow up is needed. Bring additional members of the school community into the next meeting, as needed.
9. Stay in touch with your child’s teacher(s). Even if the problem or issue is addressed and resolved, best to keep in touch with your child’s teacher throughout the year. Be sure to share positive aspects of your child’s educational and social experiences at the school. Mention and recognize school efforts to improve the situation.
10. Don’t forget to say “thanks.” Teachers and administrators work very hard each and every day with limited time and resources to do the very best they can for your child and so many others. Don’t forget to thank and recognize their efforts.
National Parent-Teacher Association
The Parent-Teacher Partnership
Public Broadcasting Corporation