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So you finally get the chance to meet one-on-one with your child’s teacher — now what?

Like a good Scout, be prepared: Educators agree that doing your homework before a parent-teacher conference can make a big difference. For teachers, when a parent comes in on a set date planned well in advance, it means both parents and teachers get a chance to sit down for five to 10 minutes – often more than enough – to solidify their partnership.

The Harvard Family Research Project’s Tip Sheet for Parents suggests reviewing your child’s work, grades and past teacher feedback. Ask your child about his experience at school and make a list of questions ahead of time to ask during the conference. Care.com — a website that matches parents with child caregivers — created a list of questions to print out and take with you. A good parent-teacher conference, experts say, should cover three major topics: the child, the classroom and the future.

The Child

Most experts suggest telling the teacher about your child. Describe what they’re like at home, what interests and excites them, and explain any issues at home that may be affecting your child at school.

The Classroom

Ask about what’s happening in the classroom — both academically and socially.Parent-TeacherConference

It’s important for everyone to understand what the goal is at the end of the year. That way you all have a stake in that success. Don’t be afraid to ask the teacher to clarify what assessments or grades actually mean. Before the meeting is over, you should be sure you’re clear on the teacher’s expectations for your child.

The Future

Spin the conversation forward and ask what you can do to help.

Parent-teacher conferences are no longer a once-a-year check-in; they can provide useful insight for immediate and clear next steps.

We want both the teacher and the parent to have a positive experience. When parents and teachers work together, the results are always better.

A version of this story was published on NPR Ed in September 2014.

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