By Heidi Brewer – East Valley Parenting Advice Examiner
1. The most important tip for parent-teacher conferences is to show up. Involvement from the home is very important to a child’s education. Parents may learn things about their child or their school day that they didn’t know. They will also get ideas for how to better help their child succeed in school and tips for what they can do at home. Be informed of the date and time of conferences by checking your child’s backpack or asking your child about notes from school, especially towards the end of the quarter or semester.
2. Stick to your scheduled time unless prior arrangements have been made with the teacher. When you are late, please know that there may be another conference scheduled immediately after yours, therefore you may not get the full scheduled time with the teacher.
3. By the same token, don’t stay beyond your scheduled time as it may have a domino effect causing each conference following yours to run late. Many teachers are happy to meet with parents at other times to continue the conversation if necessary. All you need to do is ask.
4. Make sure your child’s teacher knows that you are willing to work at home with your child. Ask about specific strategies, activities or ideas you can do at home. Follow through and then follow-up with the teacher later.
5. Have specific input for your child’s teacher. For example, your child may tell you that he or she is bored in class. Try to get to the root of the problem before conferences. The conversation will be more fruitful if feedback is specific such as, “My child seems to have mastered the material in mathematics, what would the next level be?” or “My child does not seem to be very engaged with the learning, have you noticed the same thing in your class?”
6. Work together to come up with a game plan for behavior or academic issues. Students experience the highest levels of success when school and home environments are all working toward a common goal.
7. Try not to act defensive about your child. Don’t forget, your child’s teacher spends 6 or more hours a day, five days a week with your child and knows certain aspects of them very well. Some children are responsible, mature and self-controlled at school and only let down their hair when they get home, others are just the opposite. Be open to the idea that the teacher may see a different side of your child than you do. And on the other hand, make sure the teacher knows what makes your child unique and special to you.
8. Ask about volunteer opportunities. Many teachers could use the extra help in the classroom or perhaps the PTA organization wants your help. The more involved with the school you are, the more you are part of the community of people helping children, including yours, to succeed.
9. Make sure you know how to contact the teacher if issues should arise. Always try to contact the teacher before you go to the principal. The issue may be a simple misunderstanding that can be easily explained or it may be a problem that can be quickly solved. If not, you, the teacher and the principal can work together to help unravel the issue.
10. Even if the conversation became heated or uncomfortable, try to leave the conference on a positive note. It’s highly important for your child’s success in school that the lines of communication are open between teacher and parent. Make sure not to burn bridges as you do not want to miss out on hearing about all the growth and development your child is experiencing at school. Keep in mind that you can always come back at a later time when things have cooled off.