Five Steps to a More Productive Parent-Teacher Conference
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t’s an autumn ritual that has some parents defensive, tensed up and preparing for the worst. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Educators say there are steps you can take to make parent-teacher conferences productive — and pleasant — for you and your child’s teacher.
Here are 5 things you can do to get more out of your parent-teacher conference:
1. Prepare questions in advance. Write down what you want to ask and be prepared to take notes. You’ll want to focus not solely on the general (“How is my son/daughter doing?” “What can I do at home to help?”) but on specifics. Know particular topics your child has trouble with and ask for some tips that might help get past those hurdles. If your child exhibits strong academic performance, ask what you can do to sustain this at home and how to nurture her love of learning. And don’t forget that social skills are an important aspect of the school experience: Ask how your child interacts with other students in the class. The way your child acts at home is likely different from the persona your child is in a classroom setting.
2. Arrive on time and leave on time. Seems pretty basic, right? But chances are, the day you had planned to leave work a little early is the day all hell breaks loose in the office. It’s Murphy’s Law. Do your best to make this event a priority, arranging for advance coverage at work if necessary. This also sends a message to your child that education is a priority in your house. Remember that there are other parents in line to talk about their kids, too. And whether you arrive on time or 10 minutes late, when your time is up, it’s over. Don’t turn your “few minutes extra” into a later schedule for everyone else.
3. Make it a point to ask the teacher if there are any patterns in your child’s work or conduct that you should be aware of. Does he squint to see the board? Is she easily distracted? Does he turn in English work but neglect math? Ask about sleepiness in class. A high school teacher I know tells me that tiredness is a big problem among middle and high school students. “Many kids are up late on their smartphones, and Mom and Dad have no idea,” she says. This fatigue can not only affect academic performance, but for older students, can impair their driving as well. That’s a scary thought.
4. If necessary, ask for future conferences or correspondence. While some teachers may teach more than a hundred students , most are happy to take the time to meet with or communicate with parents who truly want to be engaged in their children’s education. But teachers of older students advise parents to learn to work “behind the scenes” more: Put the onus on the student to complete assignments and make him stay engaged in his own education. As a parent, you can request that the teacher correspond via email with your student — and, if you deem it necessary, ask to be blind-copied on those emails as you transfer accountability to your son or daughter.
5. Remember that you’re on the same team. Parents and teachers have shared goals: Both want their students to maximize their potential and develop a lifelong love of learning. Keep an open mind and realize that while your child may not be a genius, he or she has unique gifts and talents to share with the world. The teacher is your ally, not adversary, on this educational journey. Approach the conference in the spirit of cooperation and your child will have an unbeatable team on her side.