Preparation for a parent-teacher conference actually begins at orientation — when you don’t even know if you’ll need one! What tools are teachers using to communicate with parents? How will you access these tools? Once you have the answers to those questions, stay connected to what is happening in school. Read the newsletter. Subscribe to the blog. Visit the website. Watch the YouTube videos.
Be in the Know
Know your child’s homework assignments, and check that they are being completed. Know your child’s test schedule, and help them study for assessments. Know how your child is performing. If your school/district uses an online gradebook, be sure to obtain your login information, and check grades weekly. Your child does not want to disappoint you. He or she may conceal graded papers to avoid getting into trouble. If you are in the know, you will know when it is time to schedule a parent-teacher conference.
Do Your Homework
Preparing for a parent-teacher conference is more than scheduling a time to meet. Do determine the specific areas where your child seems to be struggling. Do gather samples of student work — homework, classwork, exit tickets, graded assessments, etc. — to refer to during the conference. Do make a list of questions you would like to ask. Again, be specific. It is difficult for a teacher to respond effectively to questions like: “How is my child doing?” Do focus your questions on specific skills or concepts. “My child seems to have trouble determining theme. Is there a strategy I can use to help?”
Do take notes during the conference. Recording the answers to your questions, the strategies to use, and the resources to access will help you follow through on the reason you requested a parent-teacher conference in the first place — to help your child. If you do your homework, you will walk away from your conference with the answers you need to address your child’s struggles.
Let’s be honest — conferences can be intimidating for both parents and teachers. There are some important items to bring with you:
Bring consideration. When making arrangements for a parent-teacher conference, remember that the teacher is either giving up their planning time or sacrificing their personal time. In the event that you are unable to attend a scheduled conference, notify the teacher as soon as possible. Be mindful of the time. A typical conference should last about 30 minutes.
Bring a positive attitude. Lead with strength. In which area have you seen the most growth in your child? What do you think has been your child’s biggest accomplishment this year? Opening remarks help to set the tone for the rest of the conference, and we all want that to be positive.
Bring an open mind. Parents and teachers are allies, not adversaries. Comments made in the context of a parent-teacher conference are not meant to be a critique of either person. The conference is an opportunity to brainstorm ways to motivate and/or problem-solve challenges the student is experiencing. We’re all working toward the same goal — helping your child be successful.
Bring empathy. It is easy to jump to judgment, especially in the heat of the moment. Listen, knowing that there is more than one side to every story. We are all fighting hidden battles. Share any special circumstances or issues that might be impacting your child’s performance, so the teacher has the whole picture. Teachers want your child to succeed — our jobs depend on it.
Know, do, bring. Best practices for teachers and parents alike.
Our “Dear Parent, From a Teacher” series helps parents obtain the tools and insight to ensure a successful school year for their children. If you are a teacher who wishes to write a guest blog for this series, please email your topic to [email protected]
About the Author
Cheryl Chascin was born and raised in Lowell, Massachusetts. She moved to Jacksonville in 1992. Cheryl and her husband, Ken, have two children and five grandchildren. Cheryl has nearly 20 years of teaching experience and was the 2017-2018 Teacher of the Year for her school. She is National Board certified in Literacy. She has taught 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades. She maintains a blog and a YouTube channel as a resource for parents and students. Cheryl is also a published author of children’s short stories and adult novels.