Parent-teacher conferences typically occur in the fall; subsequent meeting times will vary from one school to another. Although this shouldn’t be the only time parents touch base with their child’s teacher, it will pave the way for a partnership steeped in communication and cooperation. Here are tips to help parents make the most of these meetings:

Actively attend

Parents should attend conferences so they can see their student’s work, get to know his teacher and communicate with her about their child’s academic and social progress. Parents also have a wealth of information about their child they can share that may enhance the educational experience.

Take note

Before leaving home, jot down questions or concerns based on conversations you and your child have had or observations you’ve made. This adds focus and flow to the meeting and ensures your questions get answered.

Assess assignments

Review any work your child has brought home that may be in question. This includes past tests and quizzes, as well as current assignments that need clarification.

Study notes

If you and the teacher have corresponded through email or your child’s agenda book, review previous discussions to see if any topics need to be hashed out in further detail.

Check with your child

Ask your child if he has questions or concerns he would like you to address with the teacher. If he seems anxious about the meeting, let him know ahead of time what you plan to discuss and reassure him you will follow up afterward.

Listen and learn

During the conference, the teacher will note if your child is doing well in a particular subject and address areas of concern. If there is a problem, she may make a recommendation and ask for your input.

Describe your child

Briefly share his likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses so your teacher can understand him better. Also let the teacher know of any stressful conditions in his life that may affect his academic performance.

Hit problems head on

If the teacher addresses an academic or behavioral concern, be open to listening and working together toward a solution.

Note the narrative

Some teachers use online forms or email to summarize conference discussions, but you may also want to take notes to help you remember details. They can then be used to follow up with your child and the teacher.

Follow up with feedback

At home, talk with your child about what was discussed. Start with positive comments then share any concerns. Implement an action plan to address problems and remind your child that everyone is working together for his benefit.

Touch base with the teacher

Once strategies have been employed to address concerns, follow up with the teacher within a week or two to give her an update on progress at home and ask if she’s seen any changes during class time. Continue communicating, tweaking your action plan if necessary, until you begin to
see results.

A few questions to ask your child’s teacher:

  • Does my child seem happy at school?
  • Are there particular subjects that she is more eager to participate in?
  • Do you see any special interests or strengths? What can I do at home to foster them?
  • Are there subjects my child needs extra help with? How can I assist in those areas?
  • Does my child seem challenged by assignments or does he seem to complete them with little effort?
  • How does she react to trying new things?
  • How does he react to making mistakes?
  • How does my child interact with other children and adults?
  • Does she seem well-accepted among her peers?
  • Are there any behavior problems? How does he react to authority when corrected for talking out of turn, misbehaving, etc.?
  • How are my child’s creative thinking and problem-solving skills? What do you recommend for development in these areas?
  • How much should I be involved in my child’s homework assignments?

– Denise Morrison Yearian

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