One way for parents to be involved with their child’s education is to attend parent-teacher conferences. Many teachers and schools invite parents to meet with their child’s teachers at least once at the beginning of the school year, if not multiple times throughout the year. These conferences are an excellent time for you to share information with the teacher(s) and for the teacher(s) to give you an update on your child’s progress. Sometimes you’ll even have an opportunity to meet with several of your child’s teachers at once. Teachers often try to meet with all of their students’ parents since the information provided can help them to be a better teacher to the students in their classes. So, what do you need to know going into a conference? Here are some suggestions as you prepare for your first conference.
Before the Conference
Before meeting with your child’s teacher(s), it is often helpful to prepare questions that you want to ask. Writing your questions down will help you to remember the important questions you have for your child’s teacher(s). Here are some typical questions you can ask during the conference:
- What are my child’s strengths and weaknesses?
- Does my child seem happy at school?
- Does my child finish their work in class? What about homework?
- How does my child interact with peers?
- Does my child regularly participate in class activities and discussions?
- Where in the classroom does my child sit? (this is particularly important if your child has vision or hearing issues)
- What can I do at home to support my child and help them succeed?
Talk to your child before the meeting and find out what they like most about school and the teacher’s class. Is there a particular subject they find challenging? Does your child have friends in the class? This information can be helpful in your discussion with your child’s teacher.
Conferences are also a great time to share information with your child’s teacher about things that are going on outside of school. Are there any circumstances or transitions in your child’s life? Events such as a new baby, parent separation, or an elderly relative that is moving in with them can cause a child to behave differently. Discussing these will help the teacher understand any adjustments your child may be going through outside of school. This can help the teacher to better support your child at school. It is also helpful if you share your child’s interests with the teacher. If little Johnny is fascinated by dinosaurs or trains, that can help the teacher make a connection with your child and incorporate your child’s interests in lessons.
During the Conference
To ensure you get the most from your visit, do your best to be on time for your scheduled appointment. The teacher has likely allotted a specific amount of time for each child’s parents, and being late can shorten your time together.
Make sure to ask the questions you’ve prepared for the conference. It’s best to start with the most important ones first. Also, address any concerns you have. Keeping a positive attitude, even if you have concerns, is essential. Approaching the conference with a negative attitude isn’t likely to improve any issues, but keeping a positive mindset can help you work with the teacher to resolve any concerns. After all, your child’s teacher wants to help your child succeed just as much as you do.
At the end of the conference, it can be a good idea to provide the teacher with your phone number or email address to show you’d like to keep the lines of communication open. If time runs out with the teacher before you feel you’ve addressed everything, it’s okay to ask to schedule another meeting or phone call.
Following up a few days after the conference with a quick ‘thank you’ email will also keep the lines of communication open. It will also serve to keep any concerns you may have brought up at the forefront of the teacher’s mind. It can encourage the teacher to reach out to you with any concerns or changes they notice with your child as the year progresses.
It’s also wise to save the teacher’s email address or phone number so that you can reach out later in the year if the need should arise.
Parent-teacher conferences can help ensure that you and your child’s teacher are on the same page. It’s an excellent way for parents to stay involved with their child’s education. Though meeting with a teacher might seem unnecessary, particularly as your child gets older, these meetings are well worth your time as a supportive parent. Take advantage of the opportunity to be involved in your child’s education. Remember, you are your child’s number one advocate.
Dr. Edward S. Thalheimer is the President and Founder of The Tutoring Franchise Corp. If you would like further information about how to help children who need educational assistance, please go to www.tutoringcenter.com.