Parent-teacher conferences are a great way for you to connect with teachers and learn more about how best to help your child thrive in his or her school environment. The secret to a successful parent-teacher meeting is to ensure that both you and your child’s teacher exchange information in a two-way conversation. A productive back-and-forth discussion will help pinpoint areas of improvement, identify strengths and determine the best plan of action to create a positive learning environment for your child at home and in the classroom.
If you’re a first timer, here is what you can expect at your next parent-teacher conference:
Before the conference
It’s best to do research on your child’s work before attending the meeting by taking a look at completed assignments, report cards or progress reports. After, all, this will be the primary topic of conversation, so it is best to be prepared ahead-of-time with specific questions and concerns you may have.
You may also want to write down questions you have about the teaching program as a whole, whether it be the homework policy, curriculum or school support system that may help you better understand your child’s learning environment.
During your pre-conference research, be sure to speak with your child to determine if there are any specific questions he or she would like you to ask the teacher. Your child may even bring up a few of his or her own perceived areas of strengths or weaknesses that you can address at the conference.
During the conference
Typical parent-teacher conferences will last 30-45 minutes. During that time, teachers will likely exhibit samples of your child’s work for reference and you are given an opportunity to ask questions about your child’s progress, the school environment or classroom curriculum. This is also the perfect time to share information about your child that might be helpful for the teacher to know, such as medical needs, outside interests or hobbies, and activities happening at home that may affect your child’s ability to focus at school.
Ask the teacher what plans he or she has to support your child’s progress and ask for recommendations about what you can do to help. Don’t hesitate to ask questions about specific school or classroom terminology, methods of measuring grades, or specifics about what the grade-level expectations are. You may also want to ask the teacher to explain or provide examples of “A” quality work versus “B” or “C” quality work for a better understanding of what proficiency looks like in the classroom.
Parent-teacher conferences are also the perfect time to ask questions to see how your child is doing socially. Does he or she have friends? Who does your child sit with at lunch and play with at recess? Does your child seem detached or despondent about being at school each day? Are there warning signs of bullying that you should know about? Asking the right questions to get to the bottom of your child’s social behavior is important to help focus on short- and long-term goals for improvement in social areas as well.
By the end of your discussion, both of you should have a better idea about how to move forward as an integrated support system to help your child thrive in and out of the classroom.
After the conference
Now that you are armed with valuable knowledge about your child’s progress in school, make sure you sit down with your child to discuss details about his or her report card. Start by focusing on what your child is doing right and praise your child for areas where he or she is thriving. Then highlight one or two areas of improvement, and fill your child in on the plan discussed during the conference to help improve these weaker areas at home.
Constant communication with your child’s teacher is an essential part of parenting that provides a huge benefit for your child. Scheduled conferences should not be the only conversations you have with your child’s teacher. Make sure you stay in touch with the teacher regularly throughout the school year to check up on your child’s progress, provide any new information about your child, or tweak certain parts of the classroom improvement plan when necessary.
A fruitful parent-teacher conference and ongoing conversations with your child’s teacher are essential to ensure your child has all the tools required for a successful school year. Your effort in keeping the conversation going about your child’s progress ensures there are no surprises when it comes to your child’s next report card, and your effort will undoubtedly help bolster your child’s love of learning for many years to come.