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Back Helping Your Child Succeed How to have a productive meeting with your child's teacher

How to have a productive meeting with your child's teacher

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AT LAST week’s parent-teacher conferences, many parents had a chance to meet with their children’s teachers.

While many parents were satisfied with the information they received, others wanted or needed more time to discuss their children’s progress and achievement in school than the conference time allowed. If you are one of the parents who would like to have a more in-depth meeting, below are some tips you can use to communicate effectively with your child’s teacher:

  1. Tell the teacher the reason why you want to set up a meeting. Teachers need to know the reason for the meeting so they can prepare the information for you. Is it to discuss your child’s behavior, social growth, academic performance, a certain grade on a report card, or to review standardized test scores? Each of these situations is different, and requires a different type of preparation for the teacher.
  2. Set up the meeting at a mutually convenient time. Teachers need sufficient time to prepare all of the necessary information to make the meeting as productive as possible. An unplanned meeting may not be as efficient as a planned one because the teachers may not have all of the necessary information on hand.
  3. Plan for the meeting. Write out the areas and questions you want to cover. Then prioritize them. That way, your most important questions will be answered first, and by having a list, you will ensure that you do not forget to address any of the areas that are of concern.
  4. Display a positive attitude during the meeting, even if it is difficult. Be aware that your tone of voice, facial expressions, and body movements reflect your attitude as much as what you say. Remain open-minded throughout the meeting. Do not become antagonistic or defensive if the teacher presents a negative side of your child’s behavior or informs you of other problems.
  5. Make sure the teacher provides you with suggestions you can use at home with your child. If your child is having problems, make sure the teacher goes beyond merely pointing out the problem. The teacher needs to provide specific recommendations for eliminating or reducing the difficulty. Many parents have been discouraged or aggravated because teachers point out problems but do not provide solutions. If immediate suggestions cannot be provided, then schedule a followup meeting.
  6. Ask for examples of daily work to better understand your child’s strengths and weaknesses. By reviewing your child’s work, you will learn if progress is being made. Have any weaknesses become more severe? If improvement has not been made, are other methods or materials being used? As a parent, what should you be doing at home with your child?
  7. Make sure you understand the information the teacher has presented. Frequently teachers use educational jargon not realizing that parents do not understand the words they are using. So make sure that before the meeting ends, you have understood all the information reported. If you are confused or uncertain, do not be embarrassed to ask for an explanation.
  8. Keep the meeting short. Meetings that run for more than one hour can be tiresome for the parent and teacher. If you cannot accomplish everything that has been planned, ask for another meeting. Also, by scheduling a future meeting, you will have an opportunity to follow up on previous plans and discussions.

All children experience difficulty in school at one time or another. Most of these challenges resolve themselves. At times, however, it becomes necessary for parents and teachers to come together and work out a solution because if the children’s challenges are not resolved, they will continue to experience as many, or even more difficulties.

Elizabeth Hamilton, M.E., MA, is a teacher with 24 years of professional experience. You can write to her at successfullearner[at] with your questions or comments.

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