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How to Survive the School Conference

Updated on October 28, 2008
Photo: EditorB,Flickr
Photo: EditorB,Flickr

The typical American elementary school parent has the opportunity to meet with a child’s teacher at least once or twice a school year. Many parents are a bit intimidated by the whole process. This article provides a few tips on how to make the most out of your very limited face-to-face time with your child’s teacher.

Manage Expectations

Some parents may be apprehensive about a parent-teacher conference because they fear the teacher is going to say something bad about her child. Parents might also think they will be judged by the teacher. The truth is that a parent-teacher conference is supposed to improve communication between home and school, resulting in the best possible educational experience for the child.

Involve Your Child

Your child’s perception of her progress and behavior is important. Before the conference, ask your child what he thinks the teacher is going to say. This communicates to the child that you’re interested in what he has to say, not just what the teacher says. It also provides valuable information the teacher may bring up. Sometimes the things that a child worries about are of little concern to the teacher. Talking to children can help parents understand the classroom experience from both sides.

Make a List

It helps to write down your questions and concerns in advance. Especially if there’s a surprise at the parent-teacher conference, it’s easy to forget about something important you want to discuss with the teacher. It’s also not a bad idea to take notes during the conference.

Time is of the Essence

Be on time. Scratch that – be early. If the conference is probably part of a school-wide parent-teacher conference week, there is a very limited amount of time allotted for each conference. The teacher has schedules these parent meetings, one after another. Being late will not only decrease the amount of time you have with the teacher, but also throw off the schedule for the rest of the day. In the same sense of courtesy, try not to overstay your appointment. You can always schedule another conference.

Open Up

While you may want to keep some things private, there are some things you’ll need to share with your child’s teacher. You’ll want to make your child’s teacher aware of any health concerns, allergies, extreme family tension, or learning issues identified by other teachers. Don’t assume that the teachers talk to each other.

Tense Situations

If conflicts arise between you and the teacher try to resolve them respectfully and amicably. Use the same positive communication skills that you would employ in a touchy business situation. If that doesn’t work, schedule a meeting with the principal.

Talk to Your Child Again

After the conference it’s a good idea to go over the information with your child. Make sure to lead and end on positive comments, sandwiching the negative in between like this:

  • Your teacher said that you are very creative in your writing assignments.
  • Sometimes you take a lot longer to finish than your classmates.
  • She knows that if you focus on your work, you’ll improve and get things done on time.

By putting the parent-teacher conference into perspective you can use it as a valuable tool to help your child get the most out of his education.


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  • RGraf profile image

    Rebecca Graf 9 years ago from Wisconsin

    I have 3 children and each time that first conference gets me. I think it all started because I've had a couple of experiences with the teachers in the early years who were very condescending to me. They always thought that I could spend about three hours a night with that one child and help them with all this work they sent home. The fact that working a full-time job and having other children were not a factor. One teacher implied that if I really cared about my child's education I would make that time. We had issues with her all year. None of my children liked her. They always make me nervous all because of that which is unfair to the other great teachers.

    Great piece.