As we move into September, it will soon be time for Parent-Teacher Conferences at schools across the country. This important school-hosted event is an optimal time for getting to know your child’s teachers and meeting 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. By taking time to attend something that you may not want to go to, we often discover our gifts for helping our child.
I have had hundreds of parent conferences with parents through the years for various reasons. Frequently they comment, “If I had 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. Remind yourself that communication problems go both ways—teacher to parent and parent to teacher. Initiate a conversation whenever you notice a change in your child.
Here are a few observations that may help parents attend parent-teacher conferences. I am saying Parent-Teacher Conferences, not Open House or Back-to-School Night. Those are different. Parent-Teacher Conferences are very short appointments 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.
- Take time to understand what the teachers see in your child regarding positive and struggling aspects of their performance and student achievement. Have a paper pad with you with a writing utensil and write down questions as the teacher is talking.
- 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 meaningful, and then it becomes lost.
- Be willing to share the child’s performance at home and what you see as difficult for them. Ask for suggestions.
- Be sure that you have the teacher’s email address, phone/voicemail number, classroom website URL, and share the same with them.
- Please give them a direct phone number to you, likely your cell number, so that they can call you right away in case of an emergency.
- Share the same information with the school and update it yearly or as often as needed.
- Find out what the teacher sees as achievable goals for your child for 1st semester and then again 2nd semester.
- 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.
- Remember that Parent-Teacher conferences are “snapshots,” not the time to dig into things. If you have an issue, a concern, or would 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.
- Be willing to listen and try stuff. Don’t be so quick to say people in our family all have trouble with math or that your child can’t do something. Kids hear that and then perform accordingly.
- 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 communicated privately to the parent, the teacher will excuse the child to the hallway and talk with the parent if required.
- Think of just a couple of critical 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 move into this beautiful time of the year. My last suggestion 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 be difficult for the teacher to fit you into their schedule.
I always like to encourage parents to stay abreast of child development, so they know the characteristics of the age group. Read that information here, Parenting & Child Development – Dr. Rich Patterson (pattersonphd.com)
Kids Health has an excellent post on Parent-Teacher Conferences linked for you here, Parent-Teacher Conferences: Tips for Teachers (for Parents) – Nemours KidsHealth.