Be prepared and open-minded in your approach to the conference with your child's teacher, but also remember that you are your child's best advocate.
By Judy Molland
Think of the first conference of the school year as a chance for you and your child's teacher to establish rapport as teammates and figure out how you will work together. The conference provides a forum for you to explain your child's strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, interests and activities, as well as your own special concerns. Equally important, this is your opportunity to hear the teacher's perspective on your child's school performance and interactions with other children.
Many schools schedule a specific time for each conference. If you can't meet at that time, let the teacher know right away and arrange a different time. When you come, be punctual. During the conference stick to the allotted time frame; other parents are waiting for the next time slot, and the one after that. The most useful conferences are those in which both teachers and parents stay calm and try hard to work together for one purpose: to help the child do well.
Use the following tips to ensure your conference is a success:
During the Conference
- Begin on a positive note. Thank the teacher for meeting with you. Tell her what kind of progress you've noticed and what your child enjoys.
- Refer to your notes so you won't forget important items; take additional notes so that you can share what the teacher has said with your child and family.
- Ask the teacher to show you samples of satisfactory, good and excellent work, to tell you how this work was evaluated and to explain how a specific example of your child's work compares with that of other children in the class.
- Ask if your child is working at grade level and what expectations the teacher has.
- Check into your child's social skills. Does she play with others? Spend time alone?
- Ask for an explanation if the teacher says something you don't quite understand.
- Restate important points the teacher makes to be sure you avoid miscommunication.
- You may not always agree with the teacher. When this happens, respectfully say that you disagree, but that you want to continue cooperating to explore the issue further.
- Write down any plans or activities you develop together to improve your child's academic performance or behavior. Leave with an action plan.
- Let the teacher know how to reach you, and be certain that you know how to report back or check in
A New Approach
While the standard format for the parent-teacher conference is still the norm in the fall, some schools are using a different model for the spring meeting: the student-led conference. Here, students show parents some of their work and explain their grades. The idea is that with the child leading the conference, she will be able to communicate not only how she is doing, but why.
Return to: Getting Ready for the Conference
Continue to: Following Up After the Conference
AUDIOCAST: Expert Judy Molland talks to us about how you can prepare to make the most of this important meeting. Listen now.
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