My husband and I have been through many parent-teacher conferences with our three girls and plan on at least a couple more, as our youngest daughter completes junior high. After meeting the teachers briefly at an Open House or Parent Night, the parent teacher conference has usually been our first opportunity to interact directly with the teachers. Most schools only allow 20 or 30 minutes per conference, so I found that it was important to plan ahead to make the best use of this limited time.
According to National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel, To get the most out of parent-teacher conferences, parents need to take an active role in their child's education year-round and come prepared to discuss how their child can reach their full potential.
Here are some tips to help you get the most out of parent-teacher conferences:
1. Don't Be Tardy Try to show up a few minutes early for your conference. Teachers have to tightly schedule these conferences back to back, so if a parent shows up late, it throws the remaining conferences off track. If you cant be on time, be willing to cut your conference short to help the teacher stay on schedule. If you have more to discuss, ask if you can schedule a follow-up meeting.
2. Bring In Your Homework Before your conference, talk to your child about school. Find out what your child likes about school this year, what he/she doesn't like and if there is anything he/she is concerned about. Make notes on these things and bring them along. Also, make sure you have reviewed the graded assignments and tests your child has brought home. If there are any that you are concerned about or are questioning what lead to a bad grade, bring those along.
3. Listen & Take Notes At the conference, make sure you really listen to what the teacher is saying. If he or she has something negative to say, don't go on the defensive. Remember, your child may act different from what you expect when you're not around. Take notes on things the teacher said and any follow-up steps that were agreed upon.
4. Always Tell the Teacher If there is anything going on outside of school that may impact your child's performance or behavior at school, make sure to bring it up at the conference. Then the teacher can watch for things that seem outside the norm for your child and potentially understand and deal with them better.
5. Keep Track of Assignments If there are behaviors or performance issues that need to be addressed, agree on a follow-up plan with the teacher and make sure to stay in touch as you both work through the action steps to help your child improve.
6. Have Show and Tell After the conference, share the results with your child. There shouldn't be anything that you need to hide. Your child will appreciate knowing what you talked about and knowing what the teacher thinks of his or her performance and behavior. Make sure to share both the positive and the negative!
Parent teacher conferences are a great way to learn more about a side of your child you may not see at home, kick off the school year on the right foot, and help your child make the most out of school. Make sure to use the conference as an opportunity to establish an ongoing relationship with your child's teacher. Communicating effectively with your school, and especially your child's teachers, is a key step in getting and keeping your child on the path to success!
About the author: Wendy Nelson is a full-time project manager and mom who started a website to help parents and their college-bound kids through the college search process, mykidscollegechoice.com. She enjoys writing about education-related topics and is also a contributing blogger on blog.textbooks.com.