WHETHER your child is in elementary, middle or secondary school, parent-teacher conferences are important. They provide a great opportunity for parents to come together with teachers and discuss the educational performance and progress of their children. Since it is essential that parents make the most of the 20 minutes they have at the conference, planning ahead can help them make the most of their time. Below are some suggestions to help parents get organized.
Before the conference
Talk to your child. Find out which subjects he likes the best and the least, and why. Also, ask if there is anything he would like you to talk about with the teacher. If your child is in middle or high school, you may want to include him in the conference.
Make a list. Before you go to the meeting, organize your concerns and observations by making a list of the topics you would like to discuss, and write down any questions you would like to ask.
During the conference
Be prepared to talk and listen. Parent-teacher conferences are a give-and-take exchange of information. Even if the teacher says something you disagree with, try to listen to what she has to say.
Ask for suggestions. If your child is doing well, ask what you can do to keep things on a positive track. If there are problems, discuss ways you and the teacher can work together to solve them.
Address problems. Parent-teacher conferences are a good time to discuss any academic or behavioral difficulties a child might be having in school.
When problems do arise, parents must remember to:
? avoid angry or apologetic reactions. Instead, ask for examples;
? ask what is being done about the problem and what seems to help;
? develop an action plan that may include steps that parents can take at home and steps the teacher can take at school; and
? schedule a follow-up conference and decide on the best way to stay in touch (phone, email, or letters sent to the home).
Develop an action plan. If your child needs help with a behavioral or academic issue, you and the teacher should agree on specific plans that you both will work on to help your child do better. Be sure you understand what the teacher suggests.
Follow up. Set up a way to check on your child's progress. You and the teacher will have to decide how and how often the two of you will stay in touch. Will you make contact daily, weekly or monthly? Will you communicate by notes, telephone, email, or during additional meetings.
Ending the conference. End the conference by reviewing what you discussed and restating your action plan. Then set up your next meeting.
After the conference
Whether or not your child attended the conference with you, sit down with him to discuss what transpired. Discuss the positive aspects of the conference first, such as his strengths and achievements. Then, discuss the areas that need improvement, and the plans you and his teacher have developed, and start the action plan immediately. To see if it is working, watch your child's behavior and check your his class work and homework.
Stay in regular touch with the teacher to discuss your child’s progress. Meeting with your child's teachers helps build the strong parent-teacher partnerships that are needed if you and the teachers are to reach the common goal of helping your child get the best education possible.