Parent-Teacher Conferences

As we move into the month of September, it will soon be time for Parent-Teacher Conferences at schools across the country.  This important school-hosted event is an optimal time to get to know your child’s teachers and to meet other parents whose kids are in the same classes as your child.  Sometimes parents skip them, using excuses like, I’m too busy, or she is doing fine, I don’t need to go, or I have to do this for work so I cannot go.  But I have discovered something valuable, something special about taking the time to be there for kids.  It is that by taking time to attend something that you may not want to go to, oftentimes we discover our own gifts for helping our child.  Through the years I have had hundreds of parent conferences with parents for various reasons.  Oftentimes they comment, “If I would have just known about this, I could have done something at home.”  That is disheartening to hear because by that time it is often too late.  Some of the problems are centered around communication in both directions, teacher to parent, and parent to teacher, both need to initiate as frequently and often as anything is noticed about a child.

Here are a few observations that may help parents as they attend the parent-teacher conferences.  I am saying Parent-Teacher Conferences, not Open House or Back-to-School night.  Those are different.  Parent-Teacher Conferences are those very short appointments that you make with the child’s teacher either during the day or at night on a no-school day.  The appointments vary according to the schedule but often are not much more than 15″ or so.

  1.  Take time to understand what the teachers see in your child in terms of positive and struggling aspects of their performance and student achievement. Have a pad of paper with you with a writing utensil and write down questions as the teacher is talking.
  2. Listen to the teacher until they stop talking for at least 5 seconds.  They may add something just when you’re ready to jump in that is important and then it becomes lost.
  3. Be willing to share the child’s performance at home and what you see them having trouble with.  Ask for suggestions.
  4. Be sure that you have the teacher’s email address, phone/voicemail number, classroom website URL, and share the same with them.
  5. Give them a direct phone number to you, likely your cell number, so that in case of an emergency they can call you right away.
  6. Share the same information with the school and be sure to update it yearly or as often as needed.
  7. Find out what the teacher sees as viable goals for your child for 1st semester and then again 2nd semester.
  8. Ask them how your child can do better?  For example, if the teacher says they need to participate more in class discussion, find out how to work with your child in that area. Perhaps at home, you can practice with some material from the book and ask them questions to answer.
  9. Keep in mind that Parent-Teacher conferences are “snapshots” not the time to really dig into things.  If you have an issue, a concern, or would really like to get some detailed information about the curriculum, you will need to make an appointment when you can both sit down for 30″ or so.
  10. Be willing to listen and try stuff.  Don’t be so quick to say that they can’t do this, or they can’t do that, or people in our family all have trouble with math.  Kids hear that and then perform accordingly.
  11. Take your child with you if at all possible so they can hear first hand what their teacher is saying.  If something needs to be said privately to the parent, the teacher will excuse the child to the hallway and talk with the parent if needed.
  12. Think of just a couple of key questions that you might ask the teacher to help with your child’s performance in class.  Find out the strengths as well as the challenges.

I hope this will help parents as they move into this wonderful time of the year.  My last suggestions is an important one.  Be sure to be on time for your appointment!  Appointments are scheduled very tightly during this time and when you are late it can really be difficult for the teacher to fit you into their schedule.