9 Tips to Make The Most of Your Parent-teacher Conference

make the most of your parent teacher conferenceFor students in kindergarten through sixth grade, parent-teacher conferences will be happening within the next few weeks. They are a great opportunity to open up the lines of communication between the most influential adults in your child’s life this year. 

While many parents are excited for the opportunity to hear from their child’s teacher, it can be anxiety-provoking, too. Although it is nerve-wracking to think about learning about your child’s weak areas, mostly what I hear from parents after the conference is regret about not being more prepared before the meeting. Here is how to get the most out of that 15 minutes of time when the teacher’s sole focus is your child.

1. Have a framework for the conference that includes dialogue between you and the teacher. Be prepared to listen and have questions ready to be asked. Preparation for this includes writing down a list of questions that you really want answered about your child’s school day. Things like:

How often does he volunteer?

Does he follow others?

How does he work with kids who aren’t his friends?

Does he ever ask questions?

What are his favorite subjects?

Is my child working up to his ability?

 

These are general questions about what the teacher sees on a daily basis in your child as one of 20-something students in the class.

2. Discuss his learning style. Talk about areas where he is successful and others where he is less so and ask specifically about areas of strength and weakness. Be open to hearing things other than what you expected. Ask the teacher what he or she thinks your child’s preferred learning style is. Does he prefer to learn by listening or by seeing things? How can they tell?

3. Ask the teacher what his or her goals are for your child by the end of the year. Discuss where your child is in terms of grade-level work and if benchmarks are being met. If your child is ahead, ask for greater challenges. If behind, ask what the plan is for catching up. Don’t be timid when it comes to expressing your concerns and options for increasing your child’s progress.

4. Find out how your child compares to grade-level norms regarding social maturity and overall development; after all, grades and academics are only one aspect of your child’s learning.

5. Discuss your questions with your partner in advance. If you are attending the conference with a partner, get yourselves aligned in thinking as to how you want the conference to go. As a school psychologist, I’ve been to many conferences where parents haven’t talked in advance, and they waste time asking the same questions or contradicting each other.

6. Ask about the role of technology in your child’s education and discuss concerns you have if the technology is more than what you’d hoped for at that age.

7. Ask the teacher to describe your child’s behavior in the classroom. As a parent, you want to know if he’s presenting the same way at school as he is at home, and if not, look for ways to understand those inconsistencies. For example, ask if your child has notably good days and bad days or if he has times during the day when he’s more present and productive and times when he is less so.

8. Ask what you can do at home to support your child’s learning. Find out how much time should be spent on homework and what should you do if a power struggle ensues around homework time.

9. Ask how they will evaluate your child this year. For example, ask if work is graded on completion or accuracy, or if class participation is graded. Answers will vary widely depending on the teacher’s preference and give you an idea of what’s important to that particular teacher. You may not agree, but understanding these expectations will help you gauge where your child needs to focus his efforts to meet them.

It’s important to attend parent-teacher conferences with an open mind and to be prepared to use the time wisely. If you don’t get all your questions answered, ask to schedule a follow-up meeting. Even if you do, you may want another meeting just to keep the dialogue going. Good luck, and enjoy the 15 minutes where your child is front and center.

 

 

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