How to Prepare for Your Child’s Parent-Teacher Conference

October 23, 2018


Parent-teacher conferences make many parents nervous- especially if their child has behavioral problems or is underperforming. Upon accepting the invitation, as a parent, it may feel as if you’ve received a summons to account for your child’s behavior and academic results. But keep іn mind that the meeting іs only for the betterment of your child’s future.


Parent-teacher conferences are not to be taken lightly as they are an assessment of your child’s development in school. For a successful and smooth flowing meeting, the key lies in being calm and composed.


Parents are typically called to attend a meeting by the school professionals. However, if you feel your child’s performance is deteriorating,you can arrange for a meeting with the teacher(s) long before the parent-teacher conference. Make an appointment for when your schedule allows and be on time for the meeting.


The following tips will help you to prepare for a parent-teacher meeting at your child’s school:


Assess Your Child’s Performance and Behavior


Have you paid attention to the papers your child has been bringing home from school? They’re easy to overlook, especially if they’re scrunched up into little balls and stowed away in the pockets of jeans and coats.


Keep track of your child’s academic and extracurricular performance іn school. Review hіs grades, and find the subjects іn which his achievement is weak or below mark. You don’t want to feel caught by surprise if the teacher says, “I’m sure you’ve noticed that Johnny never finishes an assignment.”

It will add to the teacher’s perspective of your child if you describe some of the behaviors you are noting at home. For example, if your child is particularly neat (or messy) about taking care of their room, let the teacher know. It may fit into what he or she is witnessing in the classroom.



Talk to Your Child


A child’s experiences іn school has an impact on his or her academic performance. A first step is to talk to your child about how she is getting along with her friends and teachers at school. Ask her if she is facing any kind of problems. If she is, learn whether that is about her grades, extracurricular activities, teacher(s), or friends. This will help you to plan any concerns you would like to discuss during the parent-teacher conference, as well as ask for help with solutions.



Have a Positive Mindset


Your attitude toward your child’s teacher is likely to be based in part on things your child has told you about him or her. It’s wise to bear in mind the familiar quote from the teacher who said, “If you promise not to believe any of Johnny’s wild stories about what I do at school, I’ll promise not to believe any of his wild stories about what you do at home.” Make up your own mind about this person from what you see and hear.



How you feel about your child’s teacher is going to spill over into the conference. If you still don’t have the “warm fuzzies” towards him/her, it’s best to get your thinking straight before the meeting.


Your child’s teacher is a professional, one who is trained to teach children. As such, he/she deserves your respect. That said, teachers are also human and therefore susceptible to the same human errors and frailties as you.


Although you may feel convinced — and rightly so — that no one knows your child as well as you do, remember that the teacher spends 6-7 hours daily, week in and week out, with your child and knows him pretty well — better than you suspect he/she does.


Teachers would much rather give a positive than a negative report on a student — they really would! The reason for this is obvious — it reflects on their teaching abilities and reinforces feelings of worth and competence.


Accept the drawbacks of your child with a positive frame of mind, and if you have any negative feedback, convey іt politely and diplomatically.


Your child’s teacher is also sacrificing some of his/her free time to meet with you. (Rare is the conference that takes place during school hours.) Home and family and all that they involve will probably be awaiting his/her attention after the meeting. Therefore, it’s vital that the conference not be unduly prolonged with non-essentials such as descriptions of your other children, your job, etc. Your child’s teacher will genuinely appreciate your honest attempt to respect his/her time and stay on target.



Be Open and Honest in Your Communication


Encourage open dialogue with your child’s teacher by expressing any concerns you may have. This can be how your child spends his time at home or what subjects he is finding difficult to grasp. If it’s a one-on-one meeting, you can also express concern about some poor habits your child has and seek assistance at this time.


It’s critical that you understand the message your child’s teacher is trying to convey. Some teachers, through kindness, try to blur negative news. Others may resort to educational jargon which is difficult for the layperson to comprehend. This is when you need to muster the courage to say, “I don’t understand that word — or that phrase. And it’s important that I do understand. Could you please use simpler language?”


Because many parents hate to admit they don’t understand in this situation, they may sit and nod patiently as their eyes begin to glaze over. It may be helpful and necessary to ask for documentation. For example, if the teacher says, “Your child has perceptual problems,” ask for a work sample that illustrates this. Then learn the ramifications of the problem and ask how the teacher is addressing the issue.



Prepare a Set of Questions


The conference includes (at least) two people, both of whom are interested in the wellbeing of the child. Therefore, there should be a feeling of give and take, questions and answers, as well as opinions from all participants.


Often іn our nervousness and the urge to wind up something quickly, we tend to miss out on critical questions. Using a notepad, make a list of all the questions you would like to ask your child’s teacher and bring it with you to the conference. This wіll make the task easier and help you to cover all of the issues effectively.


A conference is not a power struggle, not a case of one person’s dominance over the other, but a meeting of the minds to consider all points of view. The teacher’s opinions are significant, but your perspective is essential, too. If your method of communication is respectful and its content relevant, your chances of being “heard” are greatly enhanced.


Be mindful of your body language during the meeting. A parent who leans slightly forward in the chair and maintains eye contact with the teacher is demonstrating full attention and active participation.

Try not to grow tense if your child’s teacher asks questions that, to you, seem unrelated to academic problems. He/she may inquire about sleep habits, preferred foods, or the amount of screen time your child has. These questions are not meant to pry but will tell the teacher how your child is responding to a variety of situations — and, when necessary, he/she can suggest alternatives.


Don’t forget — your sense of humor will lighten many a situation and ease the tension for all.



If Your Child Attends the Parent-Teacher Conference

Should your child attend a parent-teacher conference? Quite often, it’s helpful for a child to be present, although he should never feel that a team of adults are “ganging up” on him. Be mindful of your words, as you don’t want to hamper the self-confidence of your child. During the meeting, he should be encouraged to share his feelings about his progress or lack thereof. If the adults are prepared to listen attentively, your child may provide some valuable clues to his needs and attitudes.


Do not be alarmed if the teacher asks another member of the school staff to attend the conference — for example, the principal, the school nurse, the school psychologist, or a speech/language teacher. These specialists are there because they have something to share — perhaps a significant observation — that will help develop better learning patterns and styles for your child.



A Final Note


During your child’s academic career, parent-teacher conferences are a way of life just as are PTA meetings, open houses, special programs in which your child performs, etc. Like all other events that are significant in your child’s life, approach them with optimism and a firm conviction that if a spirit of good will and optimism prevails, your child will, indeed, prosper.


In conclusion, be on time for the meeting, make a list of what you want to discuss and talk with your child and the teachers. After the meeting is over, the next obvious step is to find a solution to any problems. Always be confident in your child’s abilities and support hіm/her to better himself/herself.


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