It’s that time of year again! Parent/Teacher conferences are taking place all over, and for many it becomes an event of stress, aggravation, and ineffective communication. Have you ever walked away from such a meeting feeling like you got nothing accomplished or perhaps didn’t get the exact information you wanted? It’s a common occurrence. So many parents go to conferences full of questions and interests that get lost in the flood of finger-painted rainbows and squiggly lines the teacher informs you are in fact the ABCs. But if you take a few minutes before and follow a few simple guidelines you can make the most of that short time slot.
Write a list – A few days before your conference make a list of all your questions and concerns. Try to arrange them in order of importance. That way if you run out of time, your most pressing concerns have been addressed. Smaller matters can be handled at a different time. It may take some time to put all your questions down, but the organization of your thoughts is well worth your time.
Get a babysitter- Bringing your child and/or children can make it hard to focus on the business at hand. Try to schedule the conference for a time that childcare is available for your student and their siblings.
Be involved- If your child is struggling in a certain area or subject, or perhaps even socially, ask how you can help. Most teachers have extra worksheets to send home. If you ask, most likely they will be more than happy to give you material to practice with your child and improve their skill in whatever subject they struggle with. If they are not struggling and excel at a certain subject, ask at how you can further develop their ability. Ask what they are studying. What book are they reading in class? What are the topics they plan to cover in the coming weeks? These questions will give you an idea of what is going on in your child’s class, and help you prepare your child for the coming weeks.
Go higher if necessary- Most conferences go smoothly. Questions are generally answered and advice given. If however things do not go smoothly, or you feel that there is a serious problem with the student/teacher dynamic do not hesitate to schedule a conference with the principal. They can often arrange to meet with you and the teacher in order to broker an understanding and resolve your issues. If that does not work, you may ask to switch teachers. Just as personality conflicts can interfere with healthcare, social issues, and several other arenas of life, they can and do occur in the school setting. If your child did very well in prior years, but seems withdrawn and suddenly develops a dislike of school, a further investigation of the problem is needed. If your child’s teacher is unwilling to accommodate your child’s learning style, or seems to be picking on your child, you can request to switch. Naturally, this is a last resort, and every other option should be exhausted before taking this step, but at the end of the day your child’s education is paramount.
With a little organization and preparation, you can make this year’s parent/teacher conference the most successful yet.