Parent-teacher conferences don’t have to be so bad.
The holidays are over. School is back in full swing. The weather is well, crazy. The regular routine has been reestablished. And… oh no! It’s time for parent–teacher conferences!
If not a regularly scheduled conference, it may be time to sit down with your child’s teacher anyway.
Treating your child’s teacher like the only authority—the only grown-up—in the situation of parent-teacher conferences is not an effective basis for communication. It’s not a good way to ensure the needs of your child are met.
Counter the tendency to revert to childhood by making a list of your communication goals for the conference. Take personal responsibility for making sure those goals are met.
Many of your goals are likely to be questions, such as:
1. Is my child meeting behavioral expectations at school?
2. How well is my child navigating the social landscape of school?
3. How are my child’s academic skills progressing?
You may have more specific questions as well, perhaps following up on issues that developed the previous year or over the summer.
Do not assume the teacher knows everything about your child’s history. Not only is it impossible for a teacher to read the entire cumulative file for every one of the 30-plus students in the classroom, but many choose not to read up on students for fear of taking on preconceived ideas about the kids. If your child has specific issues the teacher needs to know about, or if there are accommodations, behavior contracts, or academic interventions that have proven helpful in the past, take responsibility for letting the teacher know.
Finally, if there is anything new happening in your child’s life, such as a new sibling, a new daycare situation, or a recent family crisis of any kind, make sure to let the teacher know. Children react to stress in a variety of ways, and the teacher and the rest of the school staff can only help your child if they understand what is going on.
Once you have asked all your questions and provided all the information you wish to share, you and the teacher can brainstorm solutions to any problems that you have identified.
You and the teacher are partners for this year in the care and education of your child. Developing a cooperative working relationship is a big part of making this a positive year for everyone—and going into the parent-teacher conference well-prepared and feeling like an adult is a good way to start.
And some understanding for the teacher (who is, after all, only human) will help, too.
See, parent-teacher conferences can be productive.
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