Parent- teacher conferences are a time where there should be a meeting of the minds. Teachers should be able to lay out their case for the child’s progress academically, socially, and emotionally. Parents should be able to compare what they are hearing to what is going on at home. At that point, a plan should come together as to how to work with the child going forward. It should be the ultimate collaboration crammed into about 15 minutes.
When I was a teacher, I was meticulous about laying out my arguments about how a child was performing before a parent walked through my door. Instead of dominating the meeting, I would lay out these arguments as quickly as possible in order to allow the parent to agree or disagree with my assessment. Because I have been on both ends of the parent teacher conference table ( I was an elementary teacher for 7 years) perhaps these tips will guide you through a conference.
The first tip is for a parent to keep samples of student work just like a teacher. This is especially helpful if there is a disputed grade in a subject. Bring the student work to the conference and compare it with the work the teacher presents.
The second tip is to respect the knowledge of the teacher concerning your child but don’t take it as the law. You have been around your child for years. At this point, a teacher has had your child two months (give or take). I’m not saying that teachers do not know what they are talking about. What I am saying is that you know your child better than anyone. There’s nothing wrong with trusting your instincts unless the teacher can present irrefutable evidence.
The third tip is to approach the conference as a problem solver. The last thing a parent should want is to be lectured for 15 minutes about poor grades or behavior then sent home shamefully. Let’s pretend there is a behavior problem in the classroom. As a parent, you should be able to present a few effective methods you have used at home for handling discipline. If concentration is an issue, what do you do at home to help your child concentrate?
The fourth tip is for parents to understand that teachers aren’t the only professionals in the room. All parents should be treated like professionals because when it comes to your child, you might as well have a PH. D. If you feel like you are being talked down to or belittled by a teacher, you can choose to address it on the spot. If you are not confrontational or if you have a situation that catches you off guard; going to the principal is always a good option.
My fifth bit of advice is to not get too excited or too depressed about the results of a parent/teacher conference. A conference is simply a snapshot in time. If a conference goes well, be happy for your child but understand there is still more work to do. If a conference doesn’t go well, that’s fine in most cases. There is plenty of time to turn the problem around.
Finally, here’s the key once a conference has concluded. Follow up with the teacher (in the next couple of weeks) by phone or email to make sure that the game plan from the conference is being implemented to everyone’s satisfaction. Often, I had parents who I would not see again until the next conference 5 months later. It’s much better for all parties (especially children) when the parent clearly demonstrates they are keeping their finger on the pulse.
I hope you liked today’s article. Don’t forget that there are many other lessons parents can learn from my parenting book Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures. Feel free to read the preface located right below my picture. I hope the lessons you will learn from the book will serve your family well. Here’s the direct link to the book from www.lulu.com: http://tiny.cc/8gs8o
I also wanted to announce that over this past weekend, I receive the 1,000th comment on www.claytonpaulthomas.com. For everyone who has ever cared enough to leave a thought on my website, I truly appreciate your time and effort.
My next post will be on Tuesday. Have a terrific weekend.