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Preparing for Conferences: A Parent’s Guide to a Successful Meeting with Teachers

Preparing for Conferences: A Parent’s Guide to a Successful Meeting with Teachers

We all know the common complaints that teachers and those who are passionate about education have: pay, politics, and policies. However, another source that is often the cause of a teacher’s stress is parent-teacher conferences. One might think it’s because of the long hours for the day (or days) in which the conferences are held or maybe the ambiguity of not knowing who will be coming in for the meeting. Personally, I was always very nervous about having a conversation that would go something like:

       Parent: “Did you really tell my kid that he ‘sucked at comma usage’?”

       Me: “Did I say that out loud?”

       Parent: “I want to talk to your administrator.”

While such a scenario may cause some anxiety from a teacher’s point of view about conferences, I think the real concerns are  that teachers feel like conferences are a waste of time because the parents who show up aren’t the ones you need to talk to and that conferences feel like another observation or judgement session that teachers are forced to go through, with their jobs being on the line if the parent doesn’t like them.

With the way society is in constant communication via email, various educational software, and social media, some districts have decided to move away from official parent-teacher conferences. Instead, teachers reach out to the parents they would like to speak with and schedule with them directly. This can be a quick phone call or an in-person meeting.

Because we are not yet in the world where parent-teacher conferences are teacher controlled and managed, here are three suggestions for how parents can have a successful meeting with teachers:

  1. Bring Your Child with You

If possible, have your child (or children) accompany you to the conference. That way, it takes a lot of the pressure off you to try to figure out where to go and with whom to speak., and it holds learners responsible for their actions. Also, it gives you the ability to perfect your “mom” or “dad” look when the teacher says something like, “Well, they’re a little too social…”

Bringing your child with you gives the teacher the opportunity to address their student directly regarding any late or missing assignments. This is usually the time children begin to dig in their backpack and pull out some wrinkly piece of paper, quickly try to press it out on their pants, and then hand it to you in hopes of not being punished when they get home. Meanwhile, the teacher is wondering how it is possible to have more Cheetos-stained fingerprints on the paper than answers. Either way, some points are better than no points, right?

  1. Make a Game Plan

Teachers will already have items they’ll want to discuss with you, but, the conversation will likely be something general and informative for you. For example, teachers will probably start with looking at what grades your child has made, what the class has been working on, and what content is going to be covered soon. If this is all the information you’re wanting to know, that is just fine. However, if you noticed your child received a 60% on an assignment, you could ask what was expected of the assignment, what did he or she struggled with, or what about this assignment was particularly difficult for the entire class.

Having questions prepared to ask the teacher is great! It tells the teacher that you are monitoring your child’s learning, giving affirmation that you care, and maintaining interest in what he or she is learning.

  1. Schedule Appropriately

There are a few different meanings behind this point. First, don’t feel like you need to meet with every teacher. If you know your child has an A in a class, do you need to meet with that teacher? If you’re curious about what is coming up next, feel free.  A common complaint I often hear is that conferences are just a time for teachers to stroke parent’s egos. Most of the time, the parents who show up for conferences aren’t the parents who teachers need to meet with, although teachers are often happy to have easy conferences.

Second, if you’re in a district that doesn’t schedule conferences formally and you’re forced into a gymnasium with over 100 teachers, make sure that you know all the teachers you need to meet with. Again, this is a great reason why you would want to bring your child with you, as you can avoid the first awkward 15 seconds when teachers introduce themselves and try to figure out who you are based upon how you look and attempt to remember their student’s last name. Want to help teachers out? If your child can’t come with you, introduce yourself like this: “Hi, my name is _____. I am _____’s parent. I believe that he/she is in your 4th period _____ class.”

Also, be prepared to stay longer than you expected, as teachers who teach core classes will have lines for you to wait in. Please respect those lines; there isn’t a reason for you to get frustrated at the teacher because you had to wait in line for 30 minutes.

Third, if you know you need to speak with teachers for longer than 10–15 minutes, schedule a time with them outside of conferences. This is so that they can spend more time with you without feeling pressured to herd you along, and they can have time to prepare reports and talking points for you.

Overall, parent-teacher conferences should never go away, as open communication between all teachers and parents is so very crucial to the success of learners. Keeping the suggestions above in mind will ensure that the conference time is being used appropriately for both you and teacher, as well as ensure that you have all the information you need to support your learner going forward.

Interested in more resources to stay up to date with your child’s education? Be sure to check out the Parents & Families section of the Edmentum blog and sign up for our FREE weekly newsletter to access additional resources, education news, and parent tips!