Most parent/teacher conferences are routine and are scheduled to keep parents up to date on their child’s progress. The goal is to work as a team for the benefit of the child. By attending, you send a message to the teacher that you are involved in the educational process of your child and that his education and well-being is important to you. It sends the same message to your child. 

Occasionally, a non-routine conference may be called in response to an issue which the teacher wants to bring to your attention. Regardless of the nature of the conference, here are some tips which I think you will find helpful when you visit your child’s school for a conference.

BEFORE THE CONFERENCE:
Teachers are SO glad to have parents who take an interest in their child’s education. However, as with any other consultation, always make an appointment if possible. Remember, teachers have other appointments as well. Calling ahead is courteous and simplifies the process.  

Prepare a list of your questions or concerns with you so that you won’t get home afterwards and remember something you forgot to ask.

The cardinal rule for attending any parent-teacher conference is to Do Your Homework and Keep Your Emotions In Check! If the teacher or school calls you to come in due to some issue with your child, have all your facts together before you go in, regardless of the nature of the call. Ask your child to tell you the whole story. You don’t want to go in puffed up about your case only to have a teacher drop a bombshell with facts of which you are not aware.

If the issue is behavioral in nature, re-familiarize yourself with the student handbook and policies of individual teachers. ALWAYS KEEP A COPY OF ANYTHING YOU SIGN AT THE BEGINNING OF THE SCHOOL SEMESTER WHICH STATES POLICY!!

If possible, make an effort for both parents (or significant other) to attend and be sure you’re both on the same page with your expectations before you go in. School conferences are not the time to air out family disagreements.

If the conference is called in regards to academics, gather previous records (report cards, progress reports, test scores, etc.) and take them with you so that you can have the full academic picture in front of you.

DURING THE CONFERENCE:
Give a firm handshake, and establish eye contact. Be attentive and take notes.

Ask about your expectations of your child’s academic achievement. Are they realistic and in line with ability?

If there are any special needs, ask what modifications are being made in order to accommodate these.

Ask what you can do at home to help your child.

Establish a method and pattern for future communication. Ask for the teacher’s email address, planning period, and phone number for homework hotline.

Wrap up by restating what you have heard and what you should expect going forward. Be sure you have a clear understanding of what needs to happen for improvement and the plans to re-evaluate.

Thank the teacher(s) for their time and what they do. It’s just common courtesy.


AFTER THE CONFERENCE:

Send a brief email to the teachers, recapping what plan of action was put in place and thanking them again.

Put your notes (including emails) in a folder designated for school papers and correspondence so that you can relate back to these easily if needed.

Keep apprised of your child’s academics and behavior as it relates to school. Check over homework at night, especially with younger children. Spend time calling out spelling words, reviewing for tests, checking book bags, signing papers, etc. Stay involved!

Establish a nightly routine to get all books, papers, etc. in their proper place so that the child will have what they need when they get to school in the morning. This is particularly helpful for children who have difficulty in keeping up with things.

REMINDERS:
No child is perfect…not mine, not yours, not the one down the street or the one in the church choir. If you are expecting perfection from your child then you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Practice the art of compromise. We all have to give and take. Pick your battles wisely.

Try not to compare your child with siblings. Although they may be raised in the same home, have the same environment and the same parents, they are different. No two siblings have the same DNA, and no two siblings have the same ability levels across the board. Even parents of identical twins will attest to that. Keep your expectations in check. Celebrate their differences and give them space to be who they are.

Remember that all children are unique and have their own gifts and talents. Encourage them to hone in on their personal strengths and abilities and find outlets for your child to express these. Every child out there makes a contribution to society.

Finally, teach your child to honor themselves and others through personal example. Every child wants to be valued. It starts at home.

©Shirley Meek-Williams

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