Conferences provide one of the best opportunities during the school year for parents and teachers to share important information. At times perspectives will differ but the goal of the conference will be the same: for the child to make academic progress, to feel valued and to be successful. Research has shown that when parents and teachers work together everyone benefits. The suggestions below will ensure that both parents and teachers arrive at the destination – your child’s successful academic achievement – with a clear and shared understanding of the journey ahead.
- Be Proactive – If possible meet and get to know the teacher before the conference. This is important because if concerns and problems arise, you have already established a positive and trusting relationship with your child’s teacher
- Assemble and Review Relevant Materials – gather appropriate materials to help prepare for the conference this may include current and past report cards, test scores, and student work samples. If there are any relevant medical concerns or information, be prepared to share that information as well. If you have not done so already, you will want to consider starting a file or notebook so this material is always in one place, in chronological order.
- Avoid Surprises – Conferences aren’t the place for them. As a parent, you want to be continually up-to-date, knowledgeable and involved in your child’s academic and/or social emotional progress. If you’re initiating the conference, share the purpose of the conference with the teacher when you schedule the meeting. Don’t wait until you sit down at the table to share your concerns. Teachers don’t like surprises either.
- Take Notes – It’s important to document conversations and recommendations, particularly if a student is struggling and concerns and strategies are being discussed. Depending on the situation, you will want to send a follow-up summary of notes to be sure everyone has the same understanding and to facilitate follow through.
- At the start, restate the purpose for the conference and ask the teacher to provide an update on your child’s progress.
- During the update, listen for specific data regarding your child’s progress in relation to grade level standards and benchmarks in academic subject areas.
- Seek clarification or further explanation on anything you are unsure about. This is important because educational terminology is not familiar to everyone.
- Ask the teacher to share work samples if they have not been provided. They will help to deepen your understanding about the information being shared.
- Offer to be involved with your child’s learning outside of school. Ask for specific suggestions, materials, and/or strategies to enrich, extend or reinforce the concepts and skills learned during the school day.
- If there are learning challenges or your child is struggling in a specific area, work closely with the classroom teacher to develop an intervention plan that includes a home component. The plan must identify specific and measurable goals to be accomplished within a set period of time. Remember to check in with the teacher regularly regarding the status of the intervention plan and your child’s progress.
In the End
By the end of the conference you should know:
- Your child’s strengths
- Goals and steps to facilitate improvement
- How and when follow-up will occur
- What you will be doing with your child outside of school to support these goals
Whether the conference is initiated by the parent or by the teacher, mutual respect and a positive tone are essential in ensuring a successful meeting and ongoing relationship. It is limiting to think that parent-teacher conferences must occur within the brick and mortar walls of the school building. Be creative. Technology provides a wide range of options such as phone, Skype, Face Time and Google Chat. The use of technology allows all stakeholders to be actively involved in their child’s education. The use of these tips provides a road map to alleviate a bumpy ride during parent-teacher conferences. The journey is worth it.