It’s every teacher’s worst nightmare: talking to the parent of a challenging student. Whether the student is having behavioral problems or serious academic concerns, teachers must find ways to successfully and clearly express their concerns without starting an argument. This, however, isn’t an easy task for teachers to accomplish — especially when parents are trying to instill healthy habits in their child.
But what makes the process so difficult? One word: guidance. Since teachers aren’t counseled on how to conduct a successful parent-teacher conference, they can sometimes struggle with ways to approach difficult conversations with parents. In return, parents get frustrated and feel that their child is being targeted, and an argument breaks out.
Fortunately, not all parent-teacher conferences have to end this way. That’s because, if conducted the right way, a parent-teacher conference can actually be a great way for parents and teachers to deepen their relationship — a relationship that can help their child and their student get back on track and finish the year with a bang. So, whether your child is having a positive or negative experience in school, here are some tips to keep in mind when meeting their teacher:
Prepare Some Notes: Taking notes isn’t only important for students, it’s also important for parents as well. So preparing notes ahead of time is key when addressing your child’s instructor. What should your notes entail? Your notes should cover any major concerns or issues your child may have and any you may have as well. This may include concerns about school, home life, extracurricular activities, holidays, and anything else that can affect your child’s education.
Don’t forget to talk about things like allergies, and vision problems that may require accommodations. If you need help with additional notes or questions, feel free to ask another adult — one that shares the same interest in your child and one that cares about your child’s well-being.
Take Advantage of the Opportunity: During the conference, take advantage of meeting your child’s teacher. You can start by greeting them and letting them know which student of theirs is your child. After that (if you’re open to it), you can also give the teacher your personal contact information (email or number) and let them know when’s the best time to contact you. That way, you can stay up to date on your child’s progress and address any issues before it escalates.
Most teachers really appreciate this gesture and might even contact you before the day is over to talk about additional things. Once you’ve met the teacher face to face, then communication becomes much easier and can encourage better results. Whatever you do, do your best not to become a nuisance to the teacher. Remember, it’s your child’s job to know when they get homework and when tests are scheduled.
Talk with Your Child: According to Penelope Adams Moon, an associate clinical professor and director of Arizona State University, talking to students isn’t only crucial for looking back, but for looking ahead as well. So before attending a parent-teacher conference, talk with your child to see what’s going on. That way, as a parent, you have a better understanding of your child’s strengthens and weaknesses. This will also allow you to find out what subjects they like and what subjects they just can’t seem to get a grasp on.
When talking to your child, make sure to ask them if they would like you to speak with their teacher about anything particular — like grading, attendance, or dress code policy. As a final point, inform your child that you and the teacher are meeting to help them, so they don’t worry too much about the conference part.
End With A Thank You: Teaching is by far one of the most underappreciated professions out there today. So instead of rehearsing your concerns about your child and pressuring the teacher for answers, thank them for their time and make a pledge that you will support them. Saying something like, “Now that I understand the curriculum you’re going over in the classroom, I can be more supportive at home,” can have a huge impact on your child’s success. It will also help the teacher as well knowing that they have your full support.
With that being said, ending the conference on a positive note ensures that you both want the best for your child and that you’re both willing to put the time in. After all, isn’t that the whole purpose of the meeting?
Thanks for the read! Did I miss anything important? What are some other techniques parents can rely on when meeting their child’s teacher for the first time? Feel free to leave a comment below.