How to... Make the Most from Parent-Teacher Conferences

By Denise Yearian

Parent-Teacher Conferences allows parents and teachers the time and opportunity to discuss the school progress, performance and behavior of children with their parents.

At the start of every school year, parents enter into an alliance that greatly affects the children’s academic success. Though the parent-teacher partnership begins the day their students walk through the school doors, the true cooperative effort occurs during conference time.

Nearly all schools hold parent-teacher conferences in the fall. But frequency and duration vary from one academic setting to another. Some schools offer them once a year for 15 minutes. Others schedule them twice and year for 30 minutes. The key is to arrive prepared to make the most of the time you have.

Ideally, the parent-teacher conference allows both parties to share ideas about the student’s progress and performance. Neither the teacher nor the parent should dominate the conversation; there should be a significant sharing of information. 

During conference time, parents can expect to get a glimpse of their child’s work and find out how he or she is progressing. Many teachers will share with parents a portfolio of the student’s work, noting areas in which the child is doing well and areas that need work.

If, during the conference, an academic or behavioral concern is addressed, most teachers make a recommendation and ask for the parents’ input.

Parents can tell the teacher a little about their child’s likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. It may even help to let the teacher know if there are any stressful conditions in the child’s life — move to new neighborhood, death of a loved one, divorce, etc.


The following questions are samples of the kinds of things parents might ask about:

  • Does my child seem happy at school?
  • Are there any particular subjects that he/she is more eager to participate in?
  • Do you see any special interest or strengths? If so, what can I do at home to foster those talents?
  • Are there any subjects that my child needs extra help or seems less motivated? How can I assist in those areas?
  • Does my child seem challenged by the school work or does he/she seem to complete it with little effort?
  • How does he/she react to trying new things?
  • How does he/she react to making mistakes?
  • How does my child interact with other children and adults?
  • Does he/she seem well-accepted among his/her peers?
  • Are there any behavior problems? How does he/she react to authority when corrected for talking out of turn, misbehaving, etc.?
  • How much should I be involved in my child’s homework assignments?

If parents have concerns about a teacher’s style or performance, it’s best to arrive prepared with respectful and constructive feedback, as well as potential solutions. ollowing the conference, parents should sit down with their child and talk about what was discussed. Children should know that their parents and teachers are working together in the child’s best interest.
     
Denise Yearian is the former editor of two parenting magazines and the mother of three children.

Chesapeake Family serves parents and families in Annapolis, Bowie, Anne Arundel, Calvert, Prince George's, Howard, Baltimore counties as well as the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

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Conference Do’s & Don’ts

Do…

 


• develop a partnership between parents and
teachers to determine the best way to serve the student’s needs.
• be honest about what the student needs for success.
• remember to focus on the student’s strengths and
build upon them.
• remain open-minded and be an active listener.
• set up a system for parents and teachers to
communicate about the student’s progress .
• summarize the follow-up activities to be
accomplished as a result of the conference.
 
Don’t…


• blame or criticize for the student’s weaknesses.
• give a list of negatives about the student’s
performance.
• take constructive criticism or suggestions as a
personal attack
• stray from the purpose of the meeting.

Source: Norbel School, Head of School,
Sharon DellaRose, M.Ed.