Making the Most of Your Parent – Teacher Conference

Photo Source: conspirator

While I grew up attending public school and my parents were both public school teachers, FishPapa and I have chosen a different route. So, I’m so thankful for my friend and LifeasMOM contributor, JessieLeigh, to provide helpful information for those of you who are anticipating Parent-Teacher conferences in the coming weeks.

:: A Post from LifeasMOM contributor, JessieLeigh ::

If your child attends public school, chances are good that parent-teacher conferences are coming in the next month or so. Ideally, this conference should be one of many dialogues you have with your child’s teacher throughout the year. Open, frequent conversation is one of your best bets for helping your child have a successful year. It is also one of your greatest weapons against problems that might pop up- be they academic or social.

One thing that I believe passionately is this – just because I send my child off to public school each day, that doesn’t mean that I’m not involved. It doesn’t absolve me of my responsibility and role in the education of my child. It doesn’t mean that I don’t care or that I have no control.

I strive to build a strong partnership with my child’s teachers. I want to work as a team to reinforce important concepts and lessons. I want my child to have consistency and security throughout his day. One way I accomplish this?

I make the most out of my parent-teacher conference.

I believe that the best conferences are more than just parents sitting there, waiting for a report on how their child is doing. I believe if you take a few moments to prepare for the conference, you (and your child’s teacher) will get more out of it.

Here are a few quick ways YOU can prepare before heading in to your conference in order to get the most out of the experience:

Leave your defensive side at home.

Most of us are quick to leap to the defense of our child. It is one thing for me to think my son is easily-distracted and lacks focus… it is quite another for someone else to mention it. Realize that the teacher wants your child to get a good education- just like you do. Instead of being defensive, try to either simply listen or, even better, offer up strategies you have found worked at home.

Photo source: emples

Consider strengths and weaknesses.

Ask yourself these two simple questions before you head in:

  • What are my child’s greatest strengths?
  • In what areas do I see my child struggle?

With these things fresh in your mind, it is easier to speak up when the teacher, inevitably, asks you, “Did you have any questions or concerns?

Realize that your child “at home” may be strikingly different from your child “at school”.

For better or worse, this is often the case. Working together, you and your child’s teacher can often brainstorm some tactics to help see more of the desired behaviors in both places. It can be surprising to learn that your effervescent, cheerful kiddo is quiet and shy at school. Keeping an open dialogue going with the teacher is your best way to help determine why that might be…

Do not limit your questions/worries to academic issues.

Your child spends many hours a day at school. Peer relations and social situations can have a dramatic impact on her happiness and success. If you think she’s being bullied, speak up. If you’re worried about the language or media she’s being exposed to, make the teacher aware. These concerns are every bit as legitimate as worries about a low math score.

Take notes

Before I head off to conferences with my children’s teachers, I take a minute to jot down any thoughts or questions I’ve had. I do the same thing before appointments with the pediatrician. I find that if I just try to “keep them in my head”, I always forget once I’m in front of the teacher. We’ll be heading in to conferences for our two children the beginning of November. I’m already thinking about things I want to bring up!

How do YOU prepare your parent-teacher conferences?

Do you have any tips to help make the most of it? What has been helpful in your experience? See ya in the comments!

– JessieLeigh is the mother of a former 24-week micropreemie and two full-term blessings as well. She is a determined advocate for the tiniest of babies, including the unborn, and a firm believer in faith and miracles.  She shares about raising such a precious, tiny baby over at Parenting the Tiniest of Miracles. She is also a regular contributor to LifeasMOM.

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Comments

  1. Excellent pointers!

    Our nine year old is dyslexic and we have many many conferences through out the year. I have a binder that I keep everything in. I keep his graded work that I am concerned about in there, my notes, copies of the parent teacher conference documents, his accomidation schedule, etc. It has dividers in it as well to seperate the topics.

    Without the binder I would have papers all over the place.

    Timely post… we have a conference today as a matter of fact.

    One thing I would add is- always know you can request a conference at any given time. For our son who is dyslexic, I like to conference with his teacher once per six weeks. Even if he is doing really well, I still like to meet and go over his progress and success and ensure we are all stil on the same page.

    • @Crystal & Co, What a great reminder, Crystal- thank you! We, too, have had the need to meet with the teachers/therapists at times other than traditional conference weeks. I’m so glad you mentioned that you can always request a meeting when the need arises… not just the “twice a year” most schools build into the schedule.

  2. we just had our p/t conferences last night for our 2 high schoolers. nice to put a teachers face with their name. as a parent, i’ve learned that email communication with teachers throughout the year can be an excellent tool. don’t be afraid to use it.

    • @Nancy, This is an area I could grow in, Nancy… you would think as a blogging/Twitter-using/computer-savvy lady that I would use email all the time with the teachers! The truth is I’m still a “paper and pen” gal for the most part. Great reminder that email can be an effective tool for ongoing communication!

  3. We also have conferences in November, and I will start jotting down concerns and notes. I also will write in a comment or a note in my son’s assignment book (we are required to initial it each day) and will email the teacher if I have concerns with him. My daughter has had no issues academically but socially she is shy so I’ve open discussed this since kindergarten at our conferences. I agree on the defensiveness, but at the same time we are our children’s advocate so its a tough balance. One thing that has helped me is to write down the goal’s I have for my children’s education – this helps me focus and react accordingly in conferences. For example, at a kindergarten conference, the teacher expressed concern over my son’s lack of number and alphabet recognition 2 months after the start of school. My goal for him was to focus at school, respect the teacher and his classroom, as well as learn the structure of school – I felt the academic side we could work on and see progress so when I wasn’t alarmed at the teacher’s concern, and instead was able to explain my focus and ask about those things – was he sitting quietly at circle, was he following direction, etc. My daughter has continously been given poor marks due to her shyness, even though she does participate by raising her hand and taking part in the class – so I did disagree with one teacher and asked her to re-evaluate – a personality trait should NOT be graded – it should simply be an area to work on with concrete goals. I’m proud of how my daughter overcomes this trait every year – its amazing how much she’s grown.

    In the spring, conferences are optional in our school system. I strongly suggest parents schedule them anyways, even if its a phone call conference. At this conference, I touch on any areas of improvement, discuss concerns with placement (not naming teachers but having a dialogue on what type of classroom my child would benefit from – nurturing, organized, etc) and getting some ideas for summer activities so we don’t lose progress (while still allowing our kids downtime from academics!)

    • @s, s- I love reading how WELL you know your children… and you are right. We are their first and most devoted advocates. It is important that we speak up for the type of support we think will benefit our children and help them thrive and succeed. I don’t consider that being defensive… that’s being an involved parent! :) The Spring conference is a GREAT time to share thoughts about what kind of classroom would be the best fit for your child. We had that same conversation last year before our son entered kindergarten this year… his preschool teacher did a wonderful job finding the perfect fit for him.

  4. Excellent article – might I just add a few things as a former teacher, and now a mom?

    It’s REALLY helpful to email/call/write a note/talk to your child’s teacher ahead of time about any questions or concerns you may have for the conference. I don’t mean a seperate conference. :) However, I always appreciated when parents contacted me ahead of time as I then felt I had an adequate amount of time to think it over and come up with some real solutions – not just during the 15 min conference.

    • @Tiffany, Great point, Tiffany! Our children’s Pre-K teacher last year actually took the initiative on that one last year and sent home quick “surveys” about a week before conferences… really got our wheels turning and also gave her a heads-up about any concerns that were out there. Thanks so much for mentioning that!

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