Tips for a Productive Parent-Teacher Conference
A good meeting with teachers involves honesty and the willingness to put in some work. We have identified ways to ensure that your next parent-teacher conference is productive, successful and helps your child continue to excel in school.
Create an Agenda A parent-teacher conference is just like any other business meeting, except it touches on subjects that can cause parents to feel apprehensive, insecure or defensive. By creating an agenda, you can eliminate these feelings and ensure a successful and meaningful experience.
Plan Ahead Before arriving at the school, create a list of things you would like to discuss. Ask your child if there is anything specific he or she would like you to address in the conference. This shows your child that you are supportive and want his or her voice to be heard. Be sure to ask for specific details that might help you better communicate your child’s wishes or concerns. Sometimes children can be shy in these settings, so if your child is attending the conference with you, try to make sure you touch on these topics. You can also request some key discussion topics from the teacher prior to the meeting. Think about them in advance to help you fully absorb the bigger picture when you are at the meeting.
Start Positive and Thank the Teacher It is important to arrive at the conference with a good attitude and to make sure you start out the conversation on a positive note. Arrive early, and be forgiving if the schedule is delayed. The teacher will appreciate that you arrived on time.
If you have requested the conference, be sure to thank your child’s teacher for taking the time to meet. Recognize how busy and hectic the teacher’s schedule is, and go out of your way to make sure he or she knows that you understand both how challenging a teacher’s workday can be as well as the significant role he or she plays in your child’s life. If your child’s teacher requested the meeting, compliment his or her commitment to your child’s success and thank him or her in advance for providing honest feedback. Letting a teacher know that you are open to honest communication will set a positive tone. If the meeting presents some obstacles, try reminding the teacher how much you appreciate the long hours he or she works to fulfill curriculum guidelines.
Stay the Course When it comes time for the meeting, stick to the agenda as much as possible. This will ensure that everyone has a chance to share and be heard without running out of time. To make the meeting as productive as possible, avoid off-topic subjects until the important topics have been addressed. It’s also good to use verbal and nonverbal cues during the meeting. This will show that you are an involved parent, which will help the teacher feel as though you are on his or her team. A positive approach will go a long way and will kick-start the meeting with warmth and appreciation – never a bad thing when approaching potentially difficult subjects.
Show Teachers You Want to Work With Them Studies have long proven that children whose parents are heavily involved in their education process are more successful than children with uninvolved parents. It is simply not enough to show up, listen and go home. Communicate to your teacher that you take full responsibility for your child’s education and view yourself as your child’s primary educator. Ask the teacher if there is anything that you can do at home that will reinforce what’s being done in the classroom to encourage a stronger relationship with your child’s teacher. Many teachers don’t feel supported, so making sure they know that you want to help them improve your child’s performance, behavior or social skills reinforces your commitment.
Sensitive Situations If your teacher has reported bad behavior, such as talking back or an inability to focus for extended periods, make sure to ask the teacher how the behavior has been tracked. Ask for specific examples and trends relative to the behavior so that you can look for a pattern at home. Being aware of the specifics and armed with the details of what challenges your child is experiencing and when is the first step to helping him or her make a change for the better. Offer to be more alert to these behaviors at home and volunteer to track them weekly. If you really want to see an improvement, create an ongoing dialogue with the teacher. Create a specially marked folder, and each week, send a note to the teacher with the positive and negative things you observed at home. Then have the teacher send a note back in the folder with his or her observations of your child in the classroom. Use the teacher’s weekly feedback as a tool for you to help your child overcome specific challenges. Be open with your child about the ongoing dialogue between you and the teacher. Doing this will demonstrate a united front and show your child that you are aligned with his or her teacher, which demonstrates your serious and committed to making school a success within the parameters of the school’s system. As your child advances through these challenges, be sure to reward him or her and recognize the improved behavior. Also point out that the reward is a result of the behavior improving both at home and at school. Actively working with the teacher to improve your child’s behavior has tremendous benefits: it reinforces both teacher and child that you are vested in your child’s success. For a teacher, knowing this makes the responsibility and pressure a lot easier to manage. Being an advocate for your child and his or her teacher is a win-win approach for parent-teacher conferences.
End on a High Note Ending the meeting the same way you began it, positively, will leave a lasting impression. While not all parent-teacher conferences are a walk in the park, bringing back some positivity can help end the meeting on a good note. Ask your child’s teacher to elaborate on a strength your child has shown and to discuss areas in school where your child is excelling. A good parent-teacher conference will highlight areas in which child may need improvement and in which he or she is succeeding. Touching on the positive as well as the problem areas will keep your child inspired to achieve even greater results next time.
Check In and Be Consistent It can be easy to hold a meeting and come up with a great plan, only to fall back into the same comfortable behaviors within a few months. It happens to the best of us. If you continue to check in and correspond with your child’s teacher, it is much easier to stay on track and focused on everyone’s goals.
Being prepared before a parent-teacher conference and managing expectations will help your child improve and grow. For your next parent-teacher conference try these tips. We think they will make your teacher meeting more productive and in the end more rewarding for everyone.