Your Guide to a Parent-Teacher Conference
21 OCTOBER 2015 | VANESSA ADAMS
We are quickly approaching the season for fall parent-teacher conferences!
This is typically a brief meeting that yields important information to guide the rest of the school year at home and at school. It is a rare event for teachers, parents, administrators, AND students to be sitting all in the same room at the same time–be sure to take advantage of this opportunity to learn from each other. Each member of your child’s educational team will have unique input to share, and so will you!
Here are some simple tips for parents before, during, and after your child’s parent-teacher conference:
Before the conference:
- First, GO to the school’s conference! A teacher may have many students and parents to manage, but you are highly valued as parents. Your child’s teachers and administrators WANT you to attend and participate. It can be nerve-wracking, but do make a special effort to participate in person if at all possible.
- If you are not able to come to the school during the scheduled conferences due to work obligations, etc., do speak up and ask for an alternate time or date that accommodates your schedule. To help inform a second parent who cannot attend, you may ask to audio-record the meeting for later reference (always ask politely ahead of time & receive permission to do so).
- Parent-Teacher conferences are meant to facilitate face-to-face communication. They should not be reserved only for times when “problems” arise!
- To that point, your child may worry that his/her teacher called a conference due to a problem, even if all students’ families are attending conferences. Talk to your child before the meeting to hear his/her view of how the year is going.
- If your school allows parental online access to grades, be sure to have checked your student’s account before the conference.
- Make a short list of your questions before the conference. If you find you need more time than is allotted on that day (most conferences are 25 minutes or less), request an additional meeting time in order to be respectful of other parents waiting. Your child’s teacher may also ask for an additional meeting time–be open to this if needed!
During the conference:
- Listen and take notes (or ask for a copy of the teacher’s notes, if possible–this is often much easier & allows you to give your full attention to the conversation).
- If a teacher uses a phrase or acronym that is unfamiliar to you, ask what it means! In education, we often are quick to use abbreviations and speak in shorthand–forgetting to explain important words, names of tests given, etc. to parents. Ask questions, ask for abbreviations to be spelled out, and ask what scores mean.
- In addition to listening to your child’s teacher describe academic progress, be sure to ask how your child is doing socially and behaviorally. Asking about friendships at school is important and can guide your social activities outside of school. Bonus: Teachers often have humorous stories to tell!
- Ask what can be practiced at home to help support schoolwork (teachers are always happy to provide suggestions, and ALL students benefit from practice at home!).
After the conference:
- After the conference, talk to your child about the comments made by adults. Check for how your child’s perspective matches with what you just heard from teachers and staff.
- Have a short family meeting to review. A parent-teacher conference is often a mystery to a child–share what happened! Praise your child for what has been done well, then speak about any areas that need extra attention or improvement.
- Soon after the conference, follow-up with a brief communication to the teacher (email, phone call, etc.) to check progress and the status of any action steps decided upon at the meeting. Be sure to thank your teachers for their time–this is also a great time to include any additional questions after you’ve had time to reflect on the discussion.