How to Prepare for a Successful Parent Teacher Conference | Occasionally Crafty: How to Prepare for a Successful Parent Teacher Conference

Wednesday, September 16

How to Prepare for a Successful Parent Teacher Conference

Whether you're just starting school or you're a month in already like we are, parent teacher conferences will be here before you know it!  As a parent and former teacher, I've been on both sides of the desk at conferences.  While each school runs its conferences differently, I've compiled some tips to help you have a successful Parent Teacher Conference.

5  Tips for a Successful Parent Teacher Conference

1.  Be prepared with a short list of questions or concerns

Teachers generally have a very short amount of time to meet with each parent.  And, the teacher has specific things they want to go over with the parents, such as report cards or standarized test scores.  To make sure your concerns get heard, write down the things you want to bring up, and consider sending a note or email to the teacher before the conference so they can prepare answers to your questions or concerns.

Example: My daughter's reading grade dropped hugely from her progress report to her report card.  I made a note to discuss this with the teacher, and we were able to discover that my daughter was missing some assignments in the grade book that in fact she had completed.  I brought the graded work to the conference, the teacher updated her grade book, and a problem was solved!

2.  Bring papers or documentation with you

If you have a concern about your child's assignments or the teacher's grading process, bring examples with you.  It helps teachers to know specifically what you have an issue with so they can provide a clear explanation.  It also helps you as a parent to show proof over time of something you may need to challenge.

3.  View your child's teacher as a partner

As a former teacher, I can tell you that I wanted nothing more than for every child in my class to succeed- even and especially those who misbehaved or were struggling in class.  As a teacher, I viewed conferences as a time to praise the child for things that were going well, and to make a plan with parents for things that weren't.  Generally, this wasn't the first time I had contact with most parents, especially if there were more serious concerns.

Now as a parent of three school-aged kids, I try to remember that most teachers feel the same way.  They want what is best for your child, and they genuinely want to help.  They have had mediocre teachers and outstanding teachers, but there has only been one who seemed totally uninterested in helping my child improve.  Most teachers are in this profession because they love teaching, love children, and want to help them learn and excel.

Please, never go above the teacher's head as your FIRST response.  Often the teacher is unaware of an issue you might have, or can easily solve it on his/her own.  If you have a knee-jerk reaction and jump right to the department head or the principal, not only are you jeopardizing any relationship you might be able to have with the teacher, but you are undermining them as a professional.  Many times the person you speak with will ask you "Have you spoken with the teacher about this?" anyway.

If you are unable to solve a problem by meeting and working with the teacher, by all means, proceed up the "ladder" to the department chair or principal- but give the teacher an opportunity to work with you first.

4.  Be Mindful of the Time

Generally, parent teacher conferences are short.  When I was teaching high school, we had 15 minutes.  Parents waited in line at a table in the gym, so we didn't want to fall behind.  We often had to rush through the conference so as not to keep people waiting.  At my children's school, you make appointments, but again, we only get 15 minutes.  If you believe the things you need to discuss will take longer than 15 minutes, ask to schedule more time with the teacher on another day.  Otherwise, parents who come after you will be delayed, and the teacher will have to be there even later than they already have to be.

Of course, sometimes the teacher is the chatty one, in which case you can either just go with it, or politely tell them you need to move on to the next conference or get back to work.

5.  Don't Let this Be Your Only Contact With The Teacher

Your teacher should know who you are from Back to School Night, Curriculum Night, emails, volunteering in class, or whatever works for your schedule.  Then after the conference, continue to stay in touch.  Check in by email to see how your child is doing.  If problems or concerns persist, meet again with the teacher, and then seek help with others in the school.

Parent Teacher conferences can make anyone feel a little bit of anxiety, but with these tips, your next one will be a success!

I'm curious- how long are your conferences?  Do you get more than 15 minutes with your child's teacher?  Do you meet in a classroom or in a central location?  Tell me all about it below.

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