Perhaps you are not pleased with your child’s latest progress report. Or maybe you’ve noticed that your child is no longer excited about school. Whatever the case, you have decided to undergo what some parents believe to be one of the most dreaded experiences of parenthood: the parent-teacher conference. Some parents fear conferences because of their own school experiences?”sitting in a principal’s office, being looked down upon with a disapproving glare. Some avoid it because there seem to be so many other things that take precedence.
However, with more small schools making parental involvement a requirement, the angst-filled parent-teacher conference is all but inevitable. Therefore, it is important for parents to understand what it takes to make that conference a positive and effective experience. The following tips provide some suggestions on how to make the most of parent-teacher conferences and get the results you want for your child:
Regardless of whether you or the teacher initiates the conference, be considerate of the time planned to discuss your child’s educational success. Remember that most teachers hold conferences before or after school, and when you show up late, you’re imposing upon their time with their students or families. Also, if a conference is shortened, one party may leave with questions unanswered and concerns still unsettled, which may cause another conference to be scheduled further down the line.
Use time wisely
Most parent-teacher conferences are scheduled within a 10- to 15-minute time period. Therefore, it is wise to take full advantage of the little time you have with a teacher. Show up with a list of questions and concerns. Make sure you have pencil and paper on hand to write any suggestions that a teacher may give. It is also important not to sway off task. You are not there discuss how much your child loves to play video games, jump double-Dutch, or watch 106th and Park. Although these things might pop up, use them to decide what consequences could be invoked if homework is not being turned in on time.
Ask for comparisons
If a teacher tells you that your child is poor in writing, kindly ask them to show you a piece of writing they think is exceptional. If a teacher tells you your child is not reading at grade level, ask them how many words per minute a student in your child’s grade should be reading. Comparing your child’s work to another student’s can be a real eye-opening experience, especially if you are not familiar with what your child needs to know at his/her age.
Focus on solutions
So Johnny can’t sit still in class. What else is new? He knows it, the teacher knows it, and you know it. Just centering on that one aspect will not cause Johnny to remain in his seat. Therefore, be prepared to supply the teacher with solutions. Tell the teacher what you do at home to make Johnny focus on completing his homework. Inform the current teacher of what Johnny’s teacher did last year to get him to stay in his seat during instruction. Ask the teacher what he/she has been doing and what he/she thinks may work to solve Johnny’s problem. Focusing on solutions will cause you to leave the conference feeling like you’ve gotten something accomplished.
Talk with other teachers
You notice that your seventh-grader is doing an exceptional job in English class, but her science teacher often complains about her disruptive behavior. How can that be? Not all teachers have the same instructional approach and talking with various teachers at your child’s school will help you understand this. Maybe her English teacher encourages students to voice their opinions through group discussions and debates, while her science teacher expects students to observe attentively as she leads demonstrations.
Your child may prefer one instructional approach to the other, and knowing this can help her become a better student. For example, you might want to ask the science teacher to hold a question-answer period after a demonstration so your child can feel like they are contributing to the class. If the teacher is not willing to change her approach, you might ask if your child can take on an independent project where she can research and refute conclusions drawn by scientists in the past.
See things through
Keep in mind that the parent-teacher conference is only the first step in solving the problem. Not only should you follow the tips above, you should also be willing to carry out the solutions that you and the teacher agree upon in a consistent and relentless approach. Continue to communicate with the teacher in order to see if the solutions that you all have decided upon are working. If not, come up with alternative strategies until you find the one that gets results.