Keep a List
You may only have 10 minutes to learn about your child from their teachers — every second counts. Start a list throughout the school term so you can touch on the most important concerns, instead of, say, the most recent event that may not be very significant.
Education giant Scholastic advises that you start early, and include your child’s ideas in your list. Bring developmental questions:
Is my child developing academically, emotionally, socially and intellectually as you expect?
- What are my child’s strengths?
- What are my child’s challenge areas?
- How can I help my child at home?
Ask the question, then stop talking and genuinely listen to the answer. If you and a partner are meeting the teacher, one of you take notes.
Focus on Outcomes
A school year goes fast, so avoid spending too much time on the past; focus on outcomes you and the teacher want to see in your child. A little history is okay and helpful, but look toward the end of the school year, not last year’s triumphs or tragedies. Ask for and get answers to specifics:
- What reading skills should my child master this year?
- How complex should my child’s written words/sentences/paragraphs/essays be?
- What mathematical abilities should they have by year’s end?
- In science and social studies, what kind of logic and understanding of the world should I see emerge in my child?
Even in this day of standardized testing, do not neglect other important subjects:
- Physical Education
- Industrial Arts
Tap into professional help before and after the conference, too. The National Education Association (NEA) offers its own great tips for successful conferences.
Your 20-item list may only have five significant issues. Begin the parent-teacher conference with those top five; pursue other items if time permits.
The conference time is tight because the teacher wants and needs to see other parents, so if necessary, get contact information or schedule a follow-up meeting for other concerns.
Truly listen with a goal of hearing the teacher, not readying your response. Few teachers form preconceptions about children, so the information they report to you should be taken for what it is: professional insight, not negative criticism. Listen to your child’s teacher’s perspective, suggestions for improvement and positive remarks.
Reinforce with your child that you intend to maintain and build a strong, supportive relationship with the teachers throughout the year. You and your child will have a great school year!
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