Summer break has come to a close, and back-to-school season is in full tilt. Once you and your little one get past the first-day jitters the next major milestone is the infamous parent-teacher conference.
This rare one-on-one meeting is an opportunity for parents to gain a clearer perspective of how their child is faring in school. It’s also a chance to form a strategic alliance with the teacher. Doing so ensures your kiddo has the very best shot at scholastic success.
Though it may only last a half an hour, parent-teacher conferences tend to set the tone for the entire school year. Regardless of if you have a well-behaved, academically excellent student – or the opposite – it’s important to go in prepared.
These five tactics will help you make the most of your time and have a successful parent-teacher conference.
- Write questions out in advance. Whether you have questions about their performance in a specific subject, understanding of classroom rules, or overall emotional well-being, now’s the time to air them. The teacher is likely to cover your child’s general strengths and weaknesses, but it’s always a good idea to prompt them about ways you can help reinforce things at home. You’ll also want to make sure you know the instructor’s preferred style of communication. Ask what method they use most and how often you expect to hear from them if there’s not an issue.
- Know what not to say. You’ll want to tell your child’s teacher if there’s anything specific going on within the home. Big life changes like divorce, a death in the family, or financial hardship can drastically impact student performance. Knowing about these situations in advance gives the instructor an opportunity to gently correct them and offer more support. However, you’ll want to stay away from some phrases that are likely to set teachers on the defense like:
- Maybe they’re just bored in your class. This could imply you think your child is too smart for age-appropriate subject matter.
- You just give too much homework. A teacher is never arbitrarily giving assignments. Lesson planning requires a lot of skill.
- They never act that way at home. There’s no way for an instructor to verify that, and it suggests a personality flaw in the teacher instead of an unacceptable behavior the student is exhibiting.
- Coordinate co-parenting schedules ahead of time. Regardless of who helps you raise your child (a family member, partner, or ex), it’s important they be present for the parent-teacher conference in some capacity. If travel schedules interfere or shared custody agreements have the child going between two households, arrange to have the other party participate by skype or facetime.
- Understand your child is one of many. They’re the most unique, special, and irreplaceable flower. No doubt their teacher sees and feels that, too. However, she or he is likely to have a bouquet of 20-30 other equally special, unique blossoms to keep track of. Make sure you’re being respectful of the instructor’s time and be clear you want to be an active participant in making the most of the school year. Showing you’re both an involved parent and team player is the best perspective to take.
- Take notes and share with caregivers afterward. As you chat, feel free to jot down action items in a notebook or take a few notes on your cell phone. It’ll help you retain the information and give you a jumping off point when your child anxiously asks how the meeting went. It’s also super helpful to provide any notes you do take to any afterschool caregivers. This will help ensure everyone stays on the same page as far as homework is concerned. It’s also a great way to collaborate on strategies for potential behavior issues that are being spotted inside and out of the classroom.
Most parent-teacher conferences are simply two sets of adults coming together for the betterment of the student. Typically an instructor will communicate any major causes for concern before you ever step foot in their classroom, so no need to be nervous! With a little-advanced prep, you can ace this important meeting of the minds.
Dave Monaco has worked in education for 24 years and counting. He has put his M.A.T. to great use as the Head of School at Parish Episcopal School and helps Parish live out their mission to guide young people to become creative learners and bold leaders who will impact our global society. With his philosophy to “engage the mind, connect to the heart,” this father of three will continue bringing order to chaos one day at a time.