Keeping Parent Conferences Productive

It is very quickly approaching the time of year when the need for parent conferences arises. Since these are usually not the required ones at the end of a grading period, they can be both stressful and unnecessarily adversarial.  Here are some quick tips to make these as stress-free and productive as possible.

  1.  Schedule an appointment.  Please don’t stop a teacher in the hall, or worse at the grocery store, to ask a quick question.  If it is indeed quick, we can probably handle it over email or a phone call.  The worst feeling for a teacher is not being able to recall a grade or assignment off the top of our heads several days after it happens.  It is simply an expectation that we cannot live up to.  If it is more complicated, schedule a time for us to sit down together.
  2.  Make the meeting one of information sharing.  Most teachers would like to share what behavior they are seeing in class, so that they can ask if parents are seeing the same thing at home.  Most of the time, the answer to that question can help determine what steps need to be taken from that point.  Please share any information you have, including if your child has a learning interference or physical issue that may not be readily apparent, especially if those affect their functionality in the classroom.  Having all of the information out on the table allows the teacher and parent to come to a reasonable solution to ensure the success of the student.
  3. Use the meeting to discuss trends, not specific assignments.  If your child is upper middle school or high school, he or she should be responsible for following up with the teacher for questions on a specific assignment.  Teachers seek to help students learn even after an assignment is returned, and would love the opportunity to make sure that happens.  Teacher conferences should be reserved to address bigger trends so that problems can be solved before they become bigger issues.  One low grade is usually not indicative of a problem.  Several bad grades or behavior issues is a trend that needs to be addressed.
  4. If the child is present, save your immediate reaction for a later time.  I have been in conferences where parents have verbally annihilated their child in front of me.  That humiliates the student, and damages the relationship between teacher and student.  Wait, talk to your child in private, and keep the relationship between you, the teacher, and your child a positive and productive one.
  5. Go to learn.  Your child may be different in the classroom than at home.  That is normal.  If your normally talkative child is silent in the classroom, or vice versa, this is something you need to know, as it is part of the equation.  Maybe a simple change of seat or brief chat with the teacher or parent could change that.
  6. Understand that the teacher is human, too.  Teachers have the normal demands of family and life place upon them, too.  Sometimes, we may make an error in math, not get a paper returned the next day, or may simply be exhausted and not have a great teaching day.  Please accept our apology if that happens.
  7.  Realize that your child will change over time.  Your baby who won the spelling bee in 3rd grade may misspell things in the 7th grade and have points deducted.  The child that aced every timed math fact test in 5th grade may struggle with algebra in 9th grade.  It happens because development does not occur at a consistent rate.  It happens because interests change.  It happens because it happens.  It is not an indictment on either parenting or teaching.  It just happens.
  8. Most all of, remember that we are all in this for the same reason.  We all want your child to succeed.  We simply must work together to make that happen.
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