As a parent and a teacher, I have been on both sides of the parent-teacher conference. Sometimes I have wondered whether we were discussing the same child. Most of the time, parents have listened intently as I pointed out their child's strengths and weaknesses. Occasionally I have had to deal with defensive parents and parents with unreasonable expectations.
Read the excellent article entitled Tips for Parents on Parent-Teacher Conferences on the National Education Association site. Against this backdrop, here are a few suggestions to help you have a successful parent-teacher conference.
This video offers an example of a parent-teacher conference.
You have to show up to have a successful meeting with your child's teacher. That sounds so obvious, doesn't it? I can clearly remember times when the parents with whom I wanted to meet were no shows. Perhaps there was a good reason why they missed their parent-teacher conference. However, in most of those cases, I don't recall receiving a phone call or a note explaining what happened. As soon as you receive your parent-teacher conference appointment, save it in your smartphone's calendar and Google calendar. If you cannot attend for some valid reason, text, or email your child's teacher as soon as possible. Ask to re-schedule the conference.
Arriving for the conference.
Arrive at the school at least 10 minutes early for your conference. If the conference before yours was canceled at the last minute or ends early, you will be on hand and ready to meet your child's teacher. The hallways will usually be decorated with students' handiwork. Take time to find your child's creations and mention them to her when you return home.
When the teacher asks you to come into the classroom, be pleasant. Smile and be courteous. Look her in the eye. Your body language must communicate warmth and openness, no matter how upset you may be with her about things real or imagined. Looking like a stormcloud when you enter your child's classroom will undoubtedly get the conference off to a poor start. I totally understand that you are paying a lot of money to send your child to private school. Count to ten. Listen patiently to what your child's teacher has to say.
This video offers 23 questions to ask at your parent-teacher conference.
Your child's teacher will probably begin the meeting with a presentation of your child's work. She will note strengths and weakness. Don't interrupt her. Listen carefully. You will have ample time to ask questions once she has finished. You probably are well aware of everything she is saying because you have reviewed your child's progress on a daily basis. Don't be defensive when the teacher mentions something you weren't aware e curof. Listen carefully. Then ask questions at the end.
A ten or fifteen-minute conference is not the ideal time to discuss some arcane pedagogical method or educational philosophy. Make an appointment at a later date to have that extended discussion. The teacher will thank you for that courtesy. Ask questions pertinent to the issues which the teacher has raised.
Be receptive to the answers.
Don't be dismissive. The teacher is seeing your child and her progress from her unique perspective. After all, she is with your child five days a week in a setting which is very different from your home. The teacher, your child, and you are partners in the education of your child. Being an enthusiastic member of the team will produce much better results than being negative and hypercritical of the teacher, the curriculum, and how she is teaching it.
Develop an action plan to resolve issues.
You have been a success in your professional life because you solved problems. You faced challenges head on and didn't flinch. Apply the same strategy to whatever issues the parent-teacher conference raises. Develop an action plan with the teacher to fix these issues before they become impediments to your child's progress.
Don't threaten the teacher. That will not help the situation. Thank her for her input. Then head for home. Figure out how to implement your plan of action. Then discuss it with your child. She needs to buy into whatever you have decided. Indeed, try your best to make her think that the plan of action is her idea.
This video offers a look at some really difficult parent-teacher conference.
When the conference goes well, and the teacher delivers glowing reports about your child's progress, compliment the teacher. Let the head of school know how much you appreciate what Ms. So-and-so is doing for your child. A private school's reputation rests on its teachers. The teaching and the curriculum are significant considerations when parents decide to send their children to private school. The individual attention, small class sizes, and superior instruction are items parents expect in a private school education.
Whether your child needs extra help with math or is at the top of her class, set goals. Make those goals attainable. If she needs extra help, then arrange for that. If she is doing well, enrich her education with an activity or lessons of some kind. Teaching your child to strive to reach goals is a valuable lesson. It lays a solid foundation for adult life. This is no time to be a helicopter or snowplow parent. Teach your child to cope with challenges and situations on her own.
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