Parent-teacher conferences can feel nerve-wracking, but there's no need to worry! Think of this meeting as an opportunity to meet with your child's teacher one-on-one and to get a comprehensive look at what your child's school life is like.
“Your child's teacher is solely dedicated to you during your conference time,” says Jaclyn Pearson, a 1st grade teacher in Illinois.
Teachers want to be informed of any changes your child is facing in their personal or family life. You’ll get a sense of how they behave at home in comparison to how they act at school. By working together, you and your child's teacher can better understand their needs.
“Don't be hesitant to receive clarification or discuss an issue that could be better understood with face-to-face interaction,” Pearson advises.
With so much to talk about in so little time, here are eight tips to make the most of your parent-teacher conferences this year:
Before the Parent-Teacher Conference
1. Prep Early
Don't wait until the night before to get organized. Create a folder at the beginning of the year in which you keep test scores, big assignments, and any notes. Don’t worry if you haven't been doing that so far — just pull together any materials you have, and jot down questions.
2. Talk to Your Child on a Daily Basis
Ask how they're doing in class, and about what's going on during lunchtime, recess, and when they go to special classes like music or gym. If you don't like what you're hearing, investigate. Talk to other parents to see if their children are expressing similar concerns.
Pearson suggests bringing any concerns to the teacher’s attention as soon as possible.
“If you wait for too long, the teacher may not know exactly what situation you are referring to,” she says.
3. Find Out the Communication Protocol
Don't let conferences be the only time you talk to your child's teacher. Ask them how they prefer to communicate, whether it's by email, a schoolwide app, or phone calls.
“The sooner you know how your child's teacher will communicate, the more likely you'll be able to stay on top of what is happening in the classroom,” Pearson says.
During the Parent-Teacher Conference
4. Arrive Early (Whether Your Conference Is In-Person or Online)
With only a few precious minutes to spend, you don't want to be late and shorten time with your child's teacher.
5. Go in With a Positive Attitude
The goal of both the teacher and you should be the success of your child. Arrive with a compliment to start the conference off on the right foot, such as "My son is really enjoying the unit on space" or "We had a great time on the field trip." Then address any concerns respectfully.
6. Ask Questions
While the discussion will likely touch on grades and good study habits, you also want to ask about the parts of your child’s school life that can't be measured by test scores and homework, such as character and friendships.
“If you have questions, ask them!” Pearson says. Your child’s teachers are just as interested in your input as you are in theirs. Here are a couple of questions that will spark a insightful conversation about your child:
Is there a particular behavior you noticed about my child?
Who are their closest friends?
What type of learner is my child?
Does my child participate in classroom activities and discussions?
After the Parent-Teacher Conference
7. Follow Up
If the teacher brings something to your attention that needs to be addressed with your child, take steps to put the plan in motion, whether it's working on organizational skills, helping them with homework, or talking about a social-emotional issue.
8. Update Your Child on How Things Went
Start with the positive things their teacher had to say, then fill them in on any concerns you and the teacher discussed. Explain how you can all work together to ensure your child stays motivated for a successful school year.
If Your Child Has a Student-Led Conference…
Student-led conferences are those in which your child will be present to share their accomplishments with you. They will be taking the lead through the conference rather than a back-and-forth conversation between the teacher and yourself.
“If your child's teacher does not clearly communicate an opportunity for questions during this type of conference, it may be necessary to schedule an alternative meeting time to address specific concerns,” Pearson says.
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