Making the Most of a Springtime Parent-Teacher Conference




Making the Most of a Springtime Parent-Teacher Conference





Parent-teacher conferences can be a wonderful opportunity for parents to learn more about their child's academic performance and to obtain valuable information about developing their child's academic and social skills. Typically schools will have one or two parent-teacher conferences each year. Fall conferences tend to cover performance assessments and setting academic goals for the current school year. Spring conferences tend to focus on reviewing student progress and continuing to set academic goals for both the current and subsequent school years. When attending a Springtime conference it is wise to take careful note of any information regarding your child's learning style and any areas of strengths and/or weaknesses. Also pay close attention to skills which need to be reinforced over the summer. By taking this opportunity to build strong parent-teacher teamwork and communication, you can improve the chances that your child will have a more positive and successful experience. Here are some pointers on how to make the most of your parent-teacher conference.





Before The Conference




Write Down Questions: If you have any questions regarding classroom policies or specific homework assignments write them down ahead of time so that you can discuss them at the conference. It helps to be prepared in order to benefit from the time you and your child's teacher spend together. Start thinking about any questions or comments you have well in advance of the conference so that you will not forget any items that need to be addressed.

Reassure Your Child: Since children feel very anxious and vulnerable at a time like this, it is important to take the time to calm their fears. Explain that parent-teacher conferences are designed to help students by having parents and teachers work together toward the same goals. Let them know that you are interested in learning about their academic progress and social interactions. Even if some performance is less than satisfactory, parents, teachers and students can work together to make it better. Remember that children need to know that you will be there to support them in both their successes as well as their failures.

Ask Your Child: Involve children in the conference process by encouraging them to share their feelings about their performance or about their adjustment to their new class before you meet with their teacher. You may even wish to ask them to predict what their teacher might say about them and why. Having children reflect upon and evaluate their own performance or behavior can be an enlightening experience for both parents and children. Listen carefully to your child's evaluation so that you may provide any guidance, encouragement, or problem solving if necessary. This can be very valuable input at a conference especially if there are any discrepancies in your child's perceptions or significant concerns that need to be discussed.






During The Conference




Be On Time: Your child is important, so you certainly don't want to rush through your parent-teacher conference because you arrived late or have to leave early. Remember that in a class of possibly 25 or more students there will be many other parents waiting to see the teacher as well. When setting up your appointment with the teacher, try to choose your time slot wisely so that you will have enough time on either end of the conference to allow for a little flexibility.

Block Out Distractions: Giving your parent-teacher conference your full and undivided attention increases the chances of a truly productive session. If possible, leave younger children at home with a caretaker so that you will not be interrupted or concerned about their behavior or whereabouts. If they must accompany you, bring along a quiet activity for them. In addition, turn off your cell phone or switch to vibrate to prevent unnecessary interruptions.

Break The Ice: Let's face it, attending parent-teacher conferences can be a little stressful, especially if you're not sure exactly what type of report you are going to receive! Most teachers will try to start off each conference on a positive note to help relieve any tension. You can do the same by expressing any positive feedback or observations about the year so far. It is helpful for teachers to hear if certain approaches have been successful so that they can tailor their teaching strategies accordingly. Remember that both parents and teachers can be equally as anxious, especially if your child's performance or behavior is not up to expectations.

Take Notes: Take notes if you feel it is necessary. The insight you will be receiving about your child can be so valuable that it is definitely worth remembering the specifics. Your teacher may provide you with ideas for enrichment activities at home, with creative approaches for troublesome subjects, with suggestions for books to read, or even specific strategies to combat a problem your child might be having. Sometimes so much information is discussed and exchanged during a conference that important elements can be forgotten by the time you get home.

Focus On Your Child: When at a parent-teacher conference, remember to put your child's interests first. On occasion, parenting and teaching aproaches may be very different, so it is important to put aside any of these differences and focus on what is best for your child. Sometimes your child's learning style may not work well with a particular teaching style so feel free to discuss any concerns, comments or options that you may have. You know your child's personality, idiosyncrasies and habits so well that any relevant information you can provide is helpful. If necessary, describe what takes place at home before or after school hours. Focus on relaying any homework difficulties, poor study habits or unusual situations. The teacher may be observing something different at school, so it is important to fit these home & school scenarios together.

Keep An Open Mind: Teachers are professionals who have a wealth of professional knowledge and experience. Whether you agree or disagree with the teacher's assessment of your child's performance, remember to keep an open mind about the teacher's suggestions, observations and comments.





After the Conference




Don't Keep It A Secret: Speaking with your child after your conference is just as important as attending the conference itself. Parent-teacher conferences should not be viewed as mysterious meetings that take place behind closed doors and are never spoken of again. Sharing the feedback parents receive from teachers can help children begin to understand their learning style, recognize their strengths, and improve upon areas of weakness. It is not necessary to disclose all of the information discussed at the conference unless you feel comfortable doing so. Base your decision on your personal preferences, your child's personality, your child's age and the subject matter discussed.

Show Your Support: Remember that it is important not to belittle children even if reports are less than perfect. Children will be less likely to ask for help or speak openly with you if they fear harsh criticism or punishment. Instead, open up the lines of communication by letting children know that they can rely on both home and school support to help them achieve their goals. Most importantly, don't forget to take this perfect opportunity to praise your child's efforts and any achievements or strengths that have been demonstrated so far!

Note Index Card Helpful Hints
Providing your child's teacher with a small index card describing your child's personality, interests, any significant academic strengths and weaknesses, any parental or student concerns or other relevant information can be very helpful. Index cards can be given to the teacher early in the year (for example, at open school night) so that teachers can have a better understanding of your child, can tailor their teaching approaches to fit your child's particular learning style and/or be aware of any specific needs right from the start.