8 steps to a successful parent teacher conference

>> Friday, January 9, 2009

OK, it's that time again.  Parent and teacher conferences.  Does that send a shiver of dread down your spine?  If so, read on.  I'll help you have a calm and informative parent teacher conference.

Parent and teacher conferences come at least once a year.  Many progressive school districts do it twice, however.  If your school district does it twice, you will be having one later this month at the halfway point of the school year.

Assuming that is the case-you've already had one this year, you'll want to mentally review that first conference now, before the second one.

Recall that was the one where you really met the teacher for the first time.  S/he was probably very complimentary about your sweet child.  There may have also been some suggestions.  All in all, it probably felt pretty mild.

But this conference may be different.  The teacher has gotten to know your child very well by now.  S/he knows your little darling's strengths as well as his or her academic or behavioral  weaknesses.

The teacher will again start out with strengths, areas that have improved and then they may come at you with some serious concerns.  How will you react to this?  

Here are some steps to follow for a successful and calm p/t conference:

  1. Come prepared with information on how you feel your child is doing academically, based on tests, graded homework and report cards; bring samples with you in a folder.  This will show how organized you are.
  2. Bring in any behavioral reports the school has sent you since the last conference.
  3. Come prepared with a home plan for the areas of weaknesses you are seeing based on above.
  4. If the teacher surprises you with any issues, gently encourage more home-school communication; it isn't unreasonable to ask for weekly emails.
  5. Ask the teacher what s/he and the school are planning to do or are already doing to address the issue(s); find out if it's working or how it will be monitored.  Ask for data. 
  6. Above all: take notes!  It shows you are serious and also that you are holding the teacher accountable to his or her word.
  7. Thank the teacher for his/her time and ask if you can visit/observe/help in the classroom in any way; if you are refused, take this up with the principal.
  8. If you get outwardly emotional during this kind of thing (I do), bring a less emotional friend or family member for support. 

Remember to rehearse all this in your mind. You'll be great and your kid will be better off for it!