How to Have Productive Parent-Teacher Conferences

November 2014

by rebecca stewart

We send our kids off to school and all of a sudden we’re on the outside looking in at a huge part of their day (oh, to be a fly on the wall!). To say that the relationship between parent and teacher requires teamwork is an understatement. As families have settled into this school year, the time is looming for Parent-Teacher Conferences – a designated window of time that you get to sit down with your child’s teacher and get a clearer picture of what’s going on in the day-to-day. The Parent-Teacher Conference is (in many places) limited to a 15-minute block, so we turned to the folks on the other side of the table for tips on how to make the most out of that time and have a productive Parent-Teacher Conference.

First grade teacher, Anna Meadows, and fourth grade teacher, Lyndsey Archila shared their tips for a successful Parent-Teacher Conference:

  • Write down questions or concerns you may have and bring them to the meeting – Fifteen minutes can go by all too quickly and it’s easy to forget important things in that time crunch, so write it down and share those things with the teacher at the start of the meeting so s/he can adapt the meeting accordingly. Remember, this meeting is a joint effort.
  • Show up on time, but be prepared to run late – Never has time flown so quickly than the time you’re talking about your kiddo. So… Please understand that the teacher only has 15 minutes to discuss a lot of things so it’s important to be on time to make sure the schedule is followed. However, some meetings run late (often beyond the teacher’s control) so be mentally prepared if the teacher is running late and don’t be upset.
  • On bringing younger siblings…Teachers understand that you might need to bring children with you. If that’s the case, please bring age-appropriate things for them to do/play with during the conference. Ideally you’ll be able to attend the conference without the kids, thus allowing parent and teacher to fully focus.
  • On bringing the student… If you plan on bringing your child to the conference, please keep in mind that there might be difficult items to discuss about the child and the last thing the teacher wants to do is embarrass them or make them feel badly. Perhaps they are struggling in an area or perhaps there is a problem with another child. It can be difficult for a teacher to be as open and honest about your child if they are sitting right there. We try to choose our wording carefully, but especially in the primary level – we don’t want a child to walk away from a conference thinking their teacher doesn’t think they are good at math or reading…etc.
  • We’re all on the same team – For seven hours a day, 180 days a year your child’s teacher is getting to know him/her, communication between parent and teacher is crucial, remembering that this 15 minutes is not the only time a parent can come to me . Additionally, the teacher wants to be open and honest with you regarding where your child is at, so if we say that your child is struggling with a concept or subject or with a behavior or emotionally, please don’t feel like we are targeting your child or don’t like them…We want to find a solution together that can help your child.

This final point is perhaps the most important because it does take teamwork, and both parent and teacher have a unique perspective of the child. We all just need to ensure that we’re taking the time to really listen to each other so that the ultimate goal doesn’t get lost in the shuffle: helping our children find the path to their success in this environment. Wishing you a productive Parent-Teacher Conference!