The Parent-Teacher Conference

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It’s funny being on the other side of things. Having spent my pre-mothering days as a classroom teacher, being on the receiving end of the parent-teacher conference is something I am still getting used to. In talking to some friends who are in other fields, however, many admit to not really knowing what to ask about or share at a parent-teacher conference.

At the beginning of the school year, or at your child’s open house, it is a good idea to ask about the kind of reporting that your child’s teacher will do, whether it’s a face to face conference or a written report, or something else. It is helpful to have the details about the parent-teacher conferences in advance – how often they are held, the typical length, and the goals of the meeting.

For example, at my former school, the Fall conference was called a Listening Conference and was intended more for the parents to share information about their child with the teacher; i.e., learning style, personality, social issues. likes/dislikes, etc. At my daughter’s school, however, the Fall conference is more to discuss specific curriculum areas that she has been working on, to take a look at sample work, and to discuss academic goals.

Having a list of questions prepared in advance of the parent-teacher conference may be helpful. It is a good way to know if you and the teacher are addressing all of your concerns, since you will have a limited time to talk. Also, I have found it useful to jot down some of my own observations to share with my child’s teacher; i.e., “When M does her math homework, I have noticed ________, etc.”

Remember, you will have your own insights about your child, both academic, emotional, and social that your teacher may or may not see, and vice versa. Your child may present himself in a totally different way in class than he does at home, and while this is perfectly normal, it is a good idea to talk these things through with your child’s classroom teacher so that you are both on the same page.

Tips for a Successful Parent-Teacher Conference:

  • Be respectful of the teacher’s time, both getting there on time and being ready to leave when your allotted time is up. If you require additional time, talk about the possibility of setting up a follow up conference at a later date.
  • Come prepared with your list of things to talk about
  • Listen to the information your child’s teacher gives you, before going through your own list. You may be surprised as to how many of your concerns are covered. If you go through your own list first, you may not get a chance to hear everything that your child’s teacher has prepared for you.
  • Refrain from asking how your child is doing in comparison to others in the class. Instead, ask how your child is doing as compared to the teacher’s expectations of where he/she should be performing at this time of year. Most teachers will not (and should not) talk to you about other children.
  • If you don’t understand the lingo your child’s teacher is using to describe an academic area, don’t be afraid to ask. You may be surprised how many of the terms and strategies for teaching them have changed since you’ve been a student.
  • Social development is just as important as academics, so make sure you ask about peer relationships.
  • If concerns are addressed, you may want to find out what is the best way to follow up; i.e., we’ll have another conference or check in after the next math unit.
  • By the time you leave the conference, you should have a clear understanding of what the mid-year and end of year goals look like. At my daughter’s school, this is clearly outlined on the paper progress report. This is a good way for you to see where your child is at now, and where they should be headed by the end of the year.
  • Ask if there are any areas that your child would benefit from additional practice or enrichment outside of school, and see if there are suggested resources ie)books, websites, iPad apps, etc.

Here is an important message that my daughter’s teacher shared with parents at Open House, and it rings very true having been both a classroom teacher and now a parent: “At this age, children are big sharers of information. I will believe about 50% of what your child tells me about you, if you agree to believe about 50% of what he/she says about me.”

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Lauren Fishman M.Ed, is a former Fifth Grade teacher. In her “life after children,” she is the family CEO – now if she can only figure out how to get paid like one! She lives in Natick with her husband and three young children.

The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog contributor’s. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Writers may have conflicts of interest, and their opinions are their own.

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