Parent-Teacher Conference Tips

Your child is in school, everything seems to be going well, and you are now ready for your first teacher conference. What can you expect, and how can or should you prepare for it? Whether your conference is a formality to discuss your child's progress or a special conference arranged because of a specific concern, it is important to prepare what you would like to discuss with the teacher. Most teacher conferences are time limited, which means you must be ready to ask specific questions.

When your child's teacher is giving feedback on your child's classroom performance, try to be objective. If the report is not as positive as you hoped, remember that your child's ability and behavior are not a reflection on you. It is always difficult for parents to hear something less than positive about their child, but if you take the time to listen to what the teacher is saying, you may realize that these are behaviors you also see at home.

Ask the teacher for concrete examples. This helps both you and the teacher to identify how frequently a behavior occurs and whether there are any specific circumstances sur­rounding it. For example, if your child has difficulty with transitions, you may be able determine that his behavior is problematic only when he is involved in an activity that he really likes. This might help you and the teacher work together to develop a way of dealing with this behavior.

Be an advocate for your child. Even if you believe that your child is being treated unfairly or that the teacher may be overreacting to a particular behavior, try to be constructive in your discussion. Instead of accusing the teacher, try to give suggestions on how best to handle your child's behavior. You know your child better than anyone. Sometimes a problem can be resolved easily through an understanding of how a child reacts to certain situations.

Listen carefully to what your child's teacher is saying, both positive and negative, and restate it. This helps to clarify statements that are made and ensure that you are both on the same track. For example, if the teacher is talking about how well your child is doing in reading, this can mean a number of things. He may be doing well in relation to the other children in the class, he may be doing well in relation to his other skills, or he may doing so well he should be challenged in this area. These are three very different statements. Unless you restate what you heard the teacher say, there may be confusion.

If there is a problem that is discussed at your school conference, make every effort to work with the teacher in generating a solution. There must be a cooperative effort be­tween parents and teachers to address many of the different problems that occur in schools today. Provide the teacher with any suggestions you can think of, including methods you may be able to carry over into the home. Sometimes problems are averted by a cooperative effort between both parties.

It is very important, at all stages of development, to share the results of your conference with your child. In general terms, explain what you and the teacher spoke about. If necessary, talk about the particular issues discussed. Present problem behaviors in a nonaccusatory way, and ask your child for help in developing a solution.

If, after completing the conference, you do not feel com­fortable with the outcome or still have unanswered questions, do not hesitate to ask the teacher for another meeting. It is important to establish a good working relationship with your child's teacher so that the two of you can work together to ensure your child's school success.

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