6 Tips for a Productive Parent Teacher ConferenceAmber Brandt
Parent Teacher Conferences are a standard and great way for you stay involved in your child’s education – but if you’ve never gone to one before, you may feel a little intimidated. You may even find yourself wondering, are they going to give me bad news about my kid? Are they going to make me feel guilty about not practicing math or reading skills enough at home?
While most parents have had these thoughts cross their mind, the purpose of a Parent Teacher Conference is not to shame you or complain about your child’s behavior. It is designed to give you and your child’s teacher a time to sit down, discuss your child’s progress, and work together to ensure your student has every opportunity for success.
Here are a few tips to help you make your conference time the best experience it can be:
- Talk with your child first. When your child knows you’ll have dedicated time with their teacher, they may choose to open up about what’s going well, or where they’re struggling. Ask them specific questions about the subjects they like/don’t like, their classmates and relationships, and anything they feel is going well/is difficult. You can also reassure them that no one is in trouble. Every parent is invited to talk to their child’s teacher during these conferences.
- Write down notes and questions. As you think about the upcoming time with the teacher, make a list of topics or questions you’d like to discuss. You may have concerns about the school, homelife, or any major changes happening in your family. You can plan to ask about:
- Your child’s performance – what they’re doing well, where they can improve, and if they’re performing at grade level
- Whether or not they’re participating in class
- How they’re behaving
- Any emotions they often exhibit
- How you can better support them at home.
- Arrive on time. PTC meetings are usually brief and tightly scheduled back-to-back. Please make the ultimate use of your time by arriving a couple minutes early and being respectful to the next parent by not monopolizing the conversation beyond your allotted time.
- Be yourself. Most parents are used to interacting with their child’s teacher while a classroom of other kids or adults are milling around, so being one-on-one may feel awkward at first. Just try to remember that you both want the very best for your child. Take a deep breath, find your calm, and be open to their insights.
- Be respectful. Some of the teacher’s feedback may be hard to hear, and you may feel defensive about your child or your parenting. Allow them a chance to speak, and respectfully discuss any differences of opinion. Bear in mind that they really do care about your child and are simply communicating their observations. Kindly navigating the differences together may help you both find a more effective way forward and a better outcome for your child.
- Discuss an action plan. While it’s great to have open communication and learn about your child’s progress, it’s way more beneficial for everyone if you take that information home with you and leverage it for growth. Don’t hesitate to ask the teacher to give you specific suggestions for how you can help your child with their homework, reading, behavior, etc. Write down their recommendations and establish a timeline for checking back in.
Once you’ve met with the teacher, be sure to circle back about the conference with your child. You don’t have to tell them every detail that was discussed, but communicate your commitment to them, and how dedicated you and their teacher are to helping them be their very best. Be sure to pass along every praise they received!
Depending on the action plan you’ve created, you may also outline a few specific things that will be different going forward, for instance, “It sounds like you’ve been getting tired in class. Do you think you’re starting homework too late, or staying up scrolling on your phone? What could we do differently there?” Or “It sounds like you’ve been having a hard time coming back indoors when recess is over. Do you have any ideas for how we could make that an easier transition for you?”
No matter how you feel before or after your conference time, just remember they’re designed to be helpful for you and your child. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your child’s teacher with any additional follow up questions, or to check in on any of the issues you discussed. Open communication, parental support and a team approach really do set your child up for success.