5 Keys to a Great Parent-Teacher Conference
Good communication between parents and teachers is absolutely essential. Moms and Dads need to be “in the loop” with regard to what’s going on in their children’s classrooms and the teacher’s expectations. At the same time, teachers are better able to meet the needs of each student if they understand his or her personality, strengths and weaknesses.
Make time for at least a couple of conferences with your child’s teacher each school year. Even if they aren’t required by your school, your child will benefit from the information you gain, and that which you provide. Here are some tips for making the most of your conference:
1. Go in with a positive attitude. Your teacher is on your team! She wants to see your child succeed, and will likely welcome information which helps her in the mission. Even if your child has struggled in the past, see each conference as a fresh start, full of possibilities.
2. Do your homework. Teachers and administrators often send home reams of communication about school policies and classroom procedures, only to find themselves reiterating the same information to parents who never read the memos. With these basics out of the way, your precious conference time can be spent focusing on the particular needs and goals for your child.
3. Get Focused with iMOM’s Teacher Conference Worksheet. It’s a bit like a doctor’s appointment: you have a set amount of time and a million questions you want to cover. Make sure you discuss the most pressing issues by looking over the worksheet before your conference. During the conference, use it to take notes.
4. Respect the teacher’s schedule. The school day is jam-packed with instructional demands with little room for error. Be on time for your conference and wrap it up as scheduled. Also, don’t bring your other children. You’ll never be able to concentrate (and neither will your teacher) if you’re wrestling a toddler the whole time.
5. See the opportunity in the conflict. Even if your conference is born out of some conflict or negative circumstance, see it as a chance to grow as a parent, or to help your child’s teacher broaden her understanding of your child. Even if you feel like your child has been treated unfairly, or that the teacher hasn’t made all the right choices, these scenarios are part of life. Look for positives, and don’t act defensive or accusatory.
6. Follow Up. Once your conference is over, jot your teacher a note of thanks for her time. Go over your filled in Teacher Conference Worksheet with your husband. Look over past conference notes to spot patterns, and how your child has progressed. Finally, discuss the conference with your child. Talk about the things they’re doing well, and the things they need to work on.
5 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Parent-Teacher Conference
Parent-teacher conferences are important tools for keeping our children on-track educationally, resolving conflict and building relationships. But more than a few of these meetings jump the tracks and end up unproductive or worse.
Here are some of the common mistakes we parents make that can torpedo our conference time and ultimately, short-change our kids.
1. Talking about other children or their performance. Your child’s teacher is legally bound to protect the confidentiality of students. So bringing up or asking the teacher to discuss another child’s grades or compare him to your child is out of line. The only time other children should be a legitimate issue is in cases of bullying, etc.
2. Going in with your “Mama Bear” instincts on. We parents can be very protective of our children at times, and it can make us look and act a little, um, crazy. Remind yourself before you go into a conference that even if there is a problem, it’s probably the result of a misunderstanding. Realize that your child’s teacher is on your team, and wants to see your child succeed.
3. Assuming that your child gave you all the facts. We’re not suggesting that your child may be dishonest (but if she was, it wouldn’t be the first time in recorded history). But she is a kid. They forget things. They misread people and situations. If you go into your parent-teacher conference with your mind all made up about what has happened and what needs to be done going forward, you may wind up with egg on your face. Listen as much—or more than—you speak.
4. Thinking like a 6th Grader. One of the most beloved teachers I ever knew taught 6th grade—a year fraught with hormonal changes, emotions, zits and other tragedies. At her first meeting with all of the parents, she would say, “Your children are getting on a hormonal roller coaster, and they can’t help it. It’s important for you to stay behind on the ground.” Meaning that she was counting on the parents to think like adults and defuse the drama—not stir it up. So, before you go in, ask yourself if you’re seeing things like an adult who knows that “this, too, shall pass,” or if you’ve been dragged onto the roller coaster.
5. Refusing to believe that your baby could be wrong. Even the best kids drop the ball—or the assignment—sometimes. It’s part of growing up. If they came into the world perfect, they wouldn’t need us, now would they? So don’t discount your teacher’s take on your child, her academic performance, or her behavior too quickly. Remember—you’re seeing them through the eyes of a mother. The teacher is seeing them through a lens that, while not infallible, is probably more objective.