For many schools, another round of parent-teacher conferences is just around the corner. This face-to-face meeting with your child’s teacher is a valuable time to find out what happens during the school day and how you can best support both your child and the teacher.
This week we are hearing from both a parent and a teacher as they prepare for spring conferences. Hopefully their insights can help you maximize your time with the teacher.
Kristy has thirteen years of experience as a middle school math teacher. She has sat across the table from many parents and is thankful when parents make it a priority to come to conferences.
“When parents stay in communication with a teacher, it shows the child that we are all on the same team, working together to make school the best place possible for that child.”
Why are conferences important?
There is only so much I can communicate through newsletters, memos, emails, and report cards. Sitting down with parents gives me a chance to go into more depth about their child’s school experience. I also like being able to ask them more questions and hear what questions or concerns they have. I have worked in schools where conferences, particularly spring conferences, are optional and only for students who might be struggling. I didn’t like that idea. I think parents should grab any face-to-face time they can with a teacher, and I like to have face-to-face time with them, too. It’s helpful for me to know things like what your child says about school and how he/she handles homework.
What should parents do to prepare?
Be on time and respect your time slot. Teachers are trying to squeeze in a lot of conferences, and when parents are late or keep talking long past the conference time, it can affect a lot of people. I also tell parents to have a few questions ready to go, and it helps to write them down so you don’t forget. Bring in report cards and progress reports, especially if you have a specific question.
What questions should parents ask?
Be sure to find out about your child’s strengths and challenges academically but also with social-emotional skills. Going over grades is obvious, so be sure to speak up and ask questions like:
How is my child getting along with others?
Does he/she help other students?
How does he/she handle frustrations and disappointments in class?
Does he/she ask for help?
Also, don’t be afraid to ask if a teacher says something you don’t understand. It is easy for teacher jargon to slip it, so ask for clarification when necessary.
Colleen is a mom of two girls, ages 9 and 12. She plans to attend both her daughters’ parent-teacher conferences next week. In fact, her 9 year old will be present during the conferences and even taking the lead.
Why are conferences important?
Overall, I feel like l have a good handle of how my girls are doing academically in school, but I still think it is important to meet with their teachers to hear about other things like peer relationships, work ethic, and just to gain insight into other strengths and weaknesses that come through in the school setting. My children spend nearly every day with their teachers; I want to know them and be sure they know I care about what happens at school.
What do you do to prepare?
I usually jot down a few questions ahead of time so I don’t have to think on the spot. I will also ask my daughters what they think their teachers will tell me, and when we get home, my husband and I will sit down with the girls and go over all we talked about at the conference. We want the girls to know we support their teachers.
What questions do you ask?
I don’t usually have as many questions about grades. Most of my questions are about behavior and friendships. Are they participating in class? Are they being overly exclusive with certain friends? I also ask what we can do at home to help.
Tell us more about how your daughter will be leading her own conference.
The fourth and fifth graders at her school not only come to conferences, but prepare in advance to talk about their strengths and challenges. She has already completed some notes she’ll be sharing with us. I love this idea! It really teaches her to reflect and think about goals.
Thank you, Kristy and Colleen.
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Written by Joy Becker, Mentoring Coordinator and Author of 44 & Oxford