Parent-Teacher Conference Tips
By: Suzie Dalien, M.Ed.
Your participation during the parent-teacher conferences can bring significant change to your child’s progress in school. These meetings are a great way to establish a good, lasting relationship with your child’s educators and open up the lines of communication. An often-overlooked benefit of these discussions is the opportunity for you to share your observations and any additional relevant information on your child’s progress outside of the classroom. This priceless information can help the teacher focus on different areas of progress some of which they may not even be aware.
Teachers usually allot 30 minutes for this consultation, so it’s best to prepare ahead of time.
The following techniques can help you make the most of the brief yet meaningful parent-teacher conference:
Before the Conference
● Gather Information
The key to making the most of this consultation is to plan ahead. Before the conference, make sure that you already have a list of items to address with the teacher. Asking your child is the quickest way to gather insight and formulate questions. Be sure to discuss your child’s favorite subjects along with the subjects in which they may be struggling. It may also be helpful to discuss activities that your child enjoys and those that they like least.
Additional information that’s necessary to review ahead of the parent-teacher conference is your child’s Individualized Education Plan or IEP and any other progress reports they’ve received. Do you notice progress or regression? Are there any particular areas that stand out? Perhaps some progress has been noticed at home but not reflected in school. Always ask yourself and the teacher why.
● Create a List Of Questions
Come up with a list of questions to ask the teacher. Examples of questions to ask may include the strategies to use for achieving your child’s annual learning goals and the strengths and weaknesses of your child. Another useful line of questions to ask should be around newly developed skills and those that need improvement. Finally, always find out from the teacher what additional resources can help your child reach their full potential.
● Prepare Notes To Assist The Teacher
There may be things in the family that could change your child’s progress in school like sickness or death of a family member, relocation to a new neighborhood or birth of a new child. Take note of these changes, as they may be relevant to your child’s current performance in school. Again, these are items that will help your child’s teacher be able to maximize their time and effectiveness with your child.
During the Conference
● Ask Most Relevant Questions First
Time is typically limited during the parent-teacher conference so ask the most important questions first.
● Refrain From Becoming Defensive
Be careful not to argue with the teacher when they give an opinion or a point in which you disagree. Becoming argumentative, especially early in the conversation, may lead to the teacher putting up a defense wall and subsequently holding back relevant information. If near the end of the meeting, your feelings are exceptionally strong, make sure to speak your mind. Remember, you are your child’s biggest advocate and their voice on the path to excellence.
● Ask For Clarification
Never hesitate to ask for clarification on items you don’t fully understand. Don’t accept surface level answers, dig deep by simple asking the teacher to explain their point further. It’s important for you to have full understanding of what the teacher is saying, and likewise they understand your position.
After the Conference
● Discuss Results With Your Child
Review the discussion with your child emphasizing the positive things mentioned by the teacher. Any and all types of positive reinforcement are important for your child’s motivation and self-esteem. If you and the teacher have come up with an action plan, briefly describe it to your child.
● Ask For Help and Locate Additional Resources
If you found out during the conference that your child was falling behind, don’t hesitate to ask for help. There are online resources available that can assist your child with their current needs. Technology has made it possible for children to receive individualized help within the comfort of their home. Online special education tutoring and supplemental learning can provide children with a safe and non-judgmental environment to learn at their pace. Special education tutors are skilled at molding the curriculum your child is currently learning in their traditional classroom to fit their specific learning needs.
● Consistently Monitor Progress
Continually observe your child and keep track of all progress. Keep in touch with the teacher and set regular meetings to discuss your child’s progress. Working together only helps to strengthen your child’s success. If disagreements happen (which they will), often it becomes a “Us vs. Them” scenario. If you feel strongly that your child’s teacher isn’t providing the needed educational environment for your child, educate yourself on the best way to handle that situation. [ Related Article; Teacher Not Meeting Your Child’s Needs? ] Unfortunately, the person that suffers the most in these cases is usually the child.
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