Communication with your child’s teacher is vital to his or her success in school, and having a successful parent/teacher conference is the first step to getting the school year off to a great start. Here are some tips to get the most out of your conference:
- Be on time and end on time: That may seem like a given but as a teacher I can attest to being stood up many times, having parents show up late, or parents that want to keep discussing their child all day. Districts vary, but oftentimes there is a designated day or night when teachers meet with many parents on a tight schedule. Showing up late or lingering after your time has ended has a domino effect of all conferences after you running late. Be punctual and if you need more time schedule another appointment.
- Listen first, ask questions later: Chances are you may already have a few questions or need clarification on something your child has told you, but let the teacher talk first. It is important to hear about how your child is perceived and what strengths and weaknesses are being described and some of your questions may be answered or addressed.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for documentation: If you are surprised by your child’s grade or score in a particular area, ask which assessments were given. Most districts use specific assessment tools in reading (ELA), math, social studies and science and it is your right as a parent to see those scores so you can see where your child has weaknesses and on what criteria the grade is based.
- Stay on topic: As parents, when discussing our children it is easy to veer off topic. Be sure to have notes jotted down in advance of things you would like to discuss so that you stay focused and do not forget. Taking a few notes will also help you recall important information.
- Remain calm: Even if you learn something negative about your child – grades lower than anticipated or behavior or language issues – stay in control and be open to suggestions about how best to rectify the situation. Share your own insights into how your child responds best and remember that the year is just beginning and there is plenty of time to turn things around academically or behaviorally. Keeping your cool will help you focus on possible solutions for your child versus getting angry or upset.
It does take a village to raise a child and there are many other people besides the teacher within a school that can be of service – school psychologist, principal, academic intervention specialists, speech and language pathologists – just to name a few depending upon your child’s needs. Clear and open communication between you and your child’s teacher is the foundation upon which your child’s educational experience is built, so set a postive tone of collaboration for the year.