With fall parent-teacher conferences coming up for Morgan Park Academy on Friday, Nov. 14, I pulled together a few tips on how to make the discussion productive and enjoyable for both parents and teachers.

1. Conferences should be about more than grades. If a parent leaves a conference only with a list of numbers and nothing else, the discussion was a huge missed opportunity.

2. This is an opportunity for two-way communication, not merely a venue for teachers to give parents information on classroom performance. Teachers can learn a lot, too, when parents contribute details that might help their child’s school life.

3. There might be an underlying truth in an exaggerated claim. Maybe the parent’s claim that her child nightly toils on four hours of homework isn’t literally true, but there’s a message there – as there is when a teacher protests that he only gives 15 minutes of homework per night. We are well aware that there are two sides to a story; often the truth is somewhere in the middle.

4. Teachers should share stories about what each student does in class. Sharing narratives of kids’ behavior as learners is essential. Parents can tell stories about the child’s use of math, language, logic, or music at home. This allows for teachers and parents to get a fuller understanding of students.

5. If it is necessary for further follow-up, establish the timeline for this to take place at parent conferences. Also, determine how this communication will take place. Parents should make sure that they know the best way to get in touch with each specific teacher. Most teachers prefer e-mails, but phone calls work better for some teachers.

6. This is a great opportunity for parents to be able to spend some time meeting individuals who spend a great deal of time with their children. In the Upper School, we recommend parents try to meet all of their children’s teachers, or as many as possible.

For more information, I recommend the resources from Education Week, Teaching Channel, and Family Education that I used to help write this post.

By Tom Drahozal

Mr. Drahozal is the Upper School principal. He also teaches history and coaches our varsity baseball and girls’ basketball teams.