The most important thing I can tell you about parent-teacher conference?
Even if you think you have nothing to talk about. Even if you hate “these things.” Even if your child is now in high school. Even if your child begs you not to go. Especially if your child begs you not to go.
Your child needs to know that you care about being involved in his education. As adults, it is easy to forget how small our kids’ worlds are: its pretty much just school and home. They look to us, teachers and parents, to help to make sense of these two worlds. And they count on you to help them bridge the gap between these two worlds. What’s important to you is important to them. According to this study conducted by the Harvard Family Research Project, students believe that they can do better at school if they know that their families are interested in their schoolwork and expect them to succeed.
This, despite the belief that kids in grade 7 and beyond don’t want their parents involved in all. The study goes on to explain that if you can create a positive relationship with your child’s school when things are going great, if and when there is a problem, it will be a lot easier to deal with.
So now that I’ve convinced you to make an appointment, what next? How can you make the most of your time? Do you initiate the conversation? Or do you let the teacher take the reigns? Spend a little time thinking about what you want to get out of this meeting. If you really have nothing you want to discuss, just sit down and let us do our thing. Most likely we’ll show you a few tests and assignments you’ve never seen and tell you a few stories that may make you laugh, cry, or want to crawl under the desk. When my son was in Kindergarten, I found out that he had told his class, in detail, all about my husband’s bathroom habits. On the other end of the spectrum, I have made more than one mom cry. In one case, after showing a mom her son’s poetry journal, she found out that her potty-mouthed, video-game addict was also a sensitive and insightful individual who loved her very much.
In addition to stories, we will also probably tell you how you can help your child do better. This does not necessarily mean they are doing badly, just that no one is perfect and there is always room to improve. Often the strategies we’ll suggest will involve you: checking their planner every night, reading together, and what kinds of conversations you could be having. Consider this your homework.
If you do have specific questions or issues you wish to discuss, come prepared: write them down, along with examples and/or work samples. If there is something going on in the class that you are unhappy or confused about, try to use an “I” statement (a strategy we teach your child) to express you unhappiness without putting us on the defensive. For example, instead of:
“Can you explain why Maya has two hours of homework every night?”
“I’m concerned that Maya has too much homework. It often takes her two hours to complete.”
Do you hear how the second comment most definitely encourages a more positive discussion?
In addition to the above, I also want you to think about the following:
- We are not allowed to discuss other children or teachers. Period. Think about it: would you want someone talking about you or your child behind your back?
- If we seem like we’re rushing you out, it’s nothing personal. It’s because we have another parent waiting. We’re more than happy to schedule a follow-up meeting any time.
- We are not with your child for every minute of every day. If there is a problem in French and I’m not the French teacher, I’m really not the best person to talk to. It doesn’t mean I don’t care, or that I’m passing the buck, its that I really don’t know.
- I can only help you with the problems I know about. If homework is taking way too long or there are bullying problems going on over the Internet, please tell me. Don’t assume I know everything.
- Your child is ALWAYS welcome to attend. In fact, we prefer it. It demonstrates that we are on the same page and working together towards the same goal: the success and happiness of you child.
Phew! That’s it! Thinking about the dreaded parent-teacher conference is over…for now. You still have to actually attend the meeting. With that in mind, I’m going to give you one last point to think about: who do you think is more nervous-you, your child, or me?
The answer might surprise you…