Making Parent-Teacher Conferences Work for Your Child
Our Children, Jan./Feb. 1997
Whether your child is in elementary, middle, or secondary school, parent-teacher conference are important. If your school does not schedule regular conferences, you can request them. Teachers need your help to do a first-class job. Together, you can work with teachers to help your child do well in school.
There are things you can do ahead of time that will help lay a foundation with teachers for helping your child. Talk to your child to find out what he/she thinks are their best, favorite, and least favorite subjects and why. Also ask if there is anything you should talk about with the teacher(s). Make sure your child does not worry about such appointments and understands that you and the teacher are meeting to help him/her.
Make a list before you go to the conference. It might help to write down the things you want to talk about with the teacher(s). For example: questions about the school's programs/policies, about your child's progress, or how you, the teacher, and school can work together to help your child. Share your child's home life, personality concerns, and habits and hobbies with the school personnel.
The questions you ask during the conference can help you express your hopes for the child's success in class and for the teacher. It is a good idea to ask the important questions first in case time runs out. The teacher's answers should help you and the teacher work together to help your child. The following are questions you may want to ask.
- What subjects does my child like most/least?
- What can I do to help my child with subjects he/she finds difficult?
- How can I help my child study?
- Does my child participate in class discussions and activities?
- How are you measuring my child's progress?
- What kind of tests do you give?
- How can we work together to help my child?
Before you leave the conference, you and the teacher should agree on specific plans that you both will work on to help your child do better. This is the most important part of the meeting. Be sure you understand what the teacher suggests. If it is not clear, ask for an explanation. Set up a way to check on your child's progress. You and the teacher can decide how best to stay in touch, such as by phone, notes, or additional meetings. It is a good idea to end the conference by reviewing what you discussed and restating your action plan.
After the Conference
Start on the action plan you and the teacher created together. Talk about it with your child. Make sure your child knows that you and the teacher care. To see if the action plan is working, watch your child's behavior and check all class and homework. Try to seek out everything you can about how your child feels about his/her school work.
Meeting with your child's teacher can and should build strong parent/teacher partnerships. These partnerships are important to help your child feel successful while getting the best education possible.
- Establish a positive relationship with your child's teachers early in the school year and work to maintain it.
- If you wish to set up an appointment with the teacher, make a phone call, or write a quick note to let the teacher know the purpose of the meeting.
- If, as with many busy parent today, you can't meet with the teacher during school hours, then set up a time and location that is good for both you and the teacher. Sometimes the teacher and parents agree to communicate via email or hold a meeting over the phone.
- If you are going to a meeting that was scheduled by the teacher or school, ask beforehand how long the meeting will last.
- If you need more time or an additional appointment, let the teacher know up front.
- Never miss a parent-teacher conference. Use the opportunity to exchange information with the teacher and develop ways to cooperate in educating your child.
- Exercise your right and responsibility to voice your questions and concerns. Express them in constructive ways.
- Ask for ways you can work with your child at home to reinforce what the teacher does in class.
- Recognize and acknowledge how difficult teachers' jobs can be.
- Schedule a time to meet again if you did not finish discussing everything.
- Thank school personnel when they are doing a good job.