With parent-teacher conferences approaching for the fall semester, here are some tips to help parents use the time effectively.
Use the conference time wisely.
You only have a short amount of time to speak with your child’s teacher/s, so make it count! Be sure to keep the conversation to your child’s progress and recommendations for having a successful school year. If you have questions or concerns that the teacher may have to look into, try em
ailing the teacher in advance, so he/she has time to prepare; otherwise, the teacher might be caught off-guard with a question to which he/she may not have an immediate answer. Also, if you feel the discussion may take longer than the allotted time, see if the teacher might have a slot available before or after yours, or arrange an alternate time.
Partner with the teachers.
If your child knows that you and the teachers are working together, it helps the relationship between your child and the teachers as well. If a teacher mentions an issue, discuss an approach for how to handle the situation together. After meeting with the teachers, share the information with your child, so he/she knows that you are working as a teacher-parent-student team. Also, include your child on any plans that you devised, so he/she feels part of the team, and tries to achieve the goals put in place.
Tell teachers about anything that might affect your child’s learning.
Sometimes we send our children to school with “baggage” of which the teacher is not aware. Besides learning differences and certain illnesses/allergies that the teachers should already know about, is there anything else that might be weighing on your child? Is a member of the family sick? Are you going through a divorce? Are you moving? Even things we consider minor are important to some children, such as losing or forgetting something they really needed. Sharing this information with teachers, and how your child deals with change or disappointment, can make a difference in how to approach a topic.
Focus on the future.
After reviewing your child’s grades, comments, or checklists, ask the teacher what your child can do to improve or maintain certain areas. Don’t dwell too much on the current report, because that is already said and done. Instead, think about what your child might need from this point on to be successful. This is where you might want to ask specific questions about strategies or a plan for how to work with your child. Ask the teacher about your child’s strengths and weaknesses, and how you can reinforce or review these skills.
Keep an open dialogue.
This is an important follow-up to conferences. Think of the conferences like a doctor’s check-up. You find out how your child is doing and how he/she can stay “healthy”, or if a problem is diagnosed, you come up with a plan. However, don’t forget to communicate with the teacher about how things are progressing, and if the plan is working. This is a two-way street; the teacher should also contact you with updates.
Whether this is your first time meeting your child’s teachers or you have met several times before, establishing a meaningful relationship that is in the best interest of your child is the key to a positive school experience. Again, if your child sees you and the teachers working together as a team, everyone benefits.
By Jennifer Schmidt
Mrs. Schmidt is our Director of Curriculum and Instruction.