Research shows that parental involvement is the most important factor in a student’s success. For many working parents, however, such involvement is limited to a hand full of parent-teacher meetings and the occasional school play or sporting event. Because most teachers have too many students and limited time, these conferences are often allotted just thirty minutes for each meeting. Some school limit parent-teacher exchanges to fewer than fifteen minutes per session. Even under such limited time constraints there is still much to gain if parents arrive equipped with the right strategies.
Parent-teacher conferences provide a great opportunity for you and your child’s teacher to share insights and information about him. Parents should use these meetings to develop a relationship with the educator and present themselves as a team player in their child’s education. Use this time to develop actionable solutions for improving his academic experience. Consider that while you are certainly the expert about your child, the educator is the expert on teaching young people at this grade level. There is room for both of you to learn something.
Before the meeting
Talk to your young person about things you want to discuss during your visit with their teacher. Ask for feedback. “Are there areas of concern that should be addressed? Guide him or her to be as specific as possible. The more resources you can offer young people to find the words to express their feelings and thoughts the better.
Before the conference, prepare a list of questions regarding your child’s academic and social progress. To use your time wisely it is important to be very direct. Arrive on time and leave smaller children at home so you can focus on the task at hand. Some good questions to ask to show that you are engaged in the academic life of your children:
What are my child’s strongest and weakest subjects?
What can I do as a parent to extend my child’s learning at home?
Is my child working up to his or her ability? If not, what can we do together to change that?
How will academic progress be measured, via written work, periodic tests, class participation, etc?
Inquire about the homework policy, classroom rules and the organizational tools recommended for classroom use
During the Conference
Stay positive and allow the teacher to take the lead. Let the educator know you have questions and will ask them at the allotted time. Hear the teacher out first, then address your issues or concerns. This should be an exchange of ideas and information to help in the academic progress of your children. This is no place for loud inappropriate tones. This is the time to be solution driven. Don’t be afraid to refer to the questions you compiled beforehand. You have a right to come with notes too! Use this time to share important information with the teacher. If there is a family situation that might impact your child’s school experience such as a divorce, relocation, death of a close family member or newly blended family, let the teacher know. This is an important time to update the educator and come up with best practices to ensure your child’s success despite some personal aspects that might become an issue down the road as the school year progresses.
During these visits it is also important to get clarity of how much homework is expected daily, long term projects and their due dates, weekly responsibilities and tests and any state required evaluations. Ask how accountability standards and testing my impact your child.
Don’t be afraid to take a few notes yourself during these meetings. Be respectful, but don’t be shy about asking for an explanation if there is something you don’t understand. Use your notes to develop a plan of action with your child.
At home after your parent-teacher conference
Discuss with your young person what was discussed and learned from the conference. Review their assets as well as areas you will be working to help them improved for greater success during the term. Set some academic benchmarks and strategies, with some clear and obtainable goals so young people can experience small successes along the way. Bringing your child into the discussion lets them know that everybody is on the same team. By making the most of these interactions you are letting your child know that their academic success is a priority and you are a partner in their success.