How to Get the Most Out of Your Parent-Teacher Conference

Are you dreading or looking forward to your upcoming parent-teacher conference? This is about your child’s educational career so the more prepared you are, the more you will get out of this process.

Here are some dos and don’ts to make your conference more enjoyable and meaningful.

DOs:

1. Walk in your teacher’s shoes. You may think that teachers find this an easy experience because, after all, they are teachers and this is part of their job. Not so. Most teachers find this one of the hardest things they’re required to do. Meeting new parents and having such a short time to cover so much can be very stressful for them.

2. Know what to expect from a parent-teacher conference.

  • Meetings are typically only five to 10 minutes long.
  • You will receive an overall picture of academic and behavior progress. This is not the time to discuss any huge issues. Those will require a separate appointment at a later date.
  • You will have goal setting and predictions.
  • There will be an overview of upcoming events, such as science fairs or big projects, to plan.
  • You will see some of the work your child has done so far.
  • There will be handouts so bring a file with you.

3. Prepare in advance any concerns or issues. Send an email to your teacher, so she/he may be able to squeeze in any additional issue.

4. Before the conference, pull your district’s academic expectations by grade level from its website. This is very handy to have so that you know what your child should be learning.

5. Ask for a scope and sequence of the school year. This will give you an overview of what will be taught and when. Many teachers have this planned out before school starts and are happy to share it with parents.

6. Ask your teacher how you can help them. Some teachers love classroom help and others prefer help with field trips and organization. Most love whatever assistance you can provide.

7. If you don’t understand some of the terminology your teacher is using, say so. In your line of work, there are terms you use that someone out of the field wouldn’t know. Teachers have the same situation. Once I had a teacher tell me that my son was a pre-emergent reader. I asked her, “What did fertilizer have to do with reading?” We both got a kick out of that, and then she helped me with the academic meaning.

8. Be on time.

DON’Ts:

1. Don’t go in with a big issue that you are angry about even though there will be those times when you may be angry. Set up a separate appointment for something that is really concerning you.

2. Don’t expect a teacher to diagnose a learning disability. They are not doctors. Visit your doctor for any concerns you may have regarding your child’s ability to learn.

3. Don’t take phone calls during your conference. As a matter of fact, don’t even take your phone with you. It interrupts everyone else’s conference too.

4. Don’t bombard your teacher with too many issues or questions. Stick to one or two of the most important issues that you want to cover.

When the conference is over, take some time to discuss your conference with your child. Stress the positives and discuss ways that you, the teacher and your child can improve on the weaknesses. The academic success of your child depends on the partnership of the three parties. Together, success is possible.

Diane Kulback is an educational specialist, the founder of two Parker charter schools and the CEO of the Parker Step to Success Community Learning Center. She may be reached at diane@steptosuccesstutoring.com.