Preparing for your Parent-Teacher Conference
Whether you are a parent, teacher, or both, parent-teacher conferences may be challenging, but it does not have to be that way! Remember, working together (rather than against one another) is always the best option for your child, so find your role below, read the information, and hopefully, your conference will go smoothly, and your child's education will only benefit more!
If you are the Parent
If you are the parent at the parent-teacher conference, it is important to remember these few key steps:
- Keep your composure
- Listen to what the teacher has to say (you might learn something you didn't know before) before you have your say.
- Refrain from going in with the idea of verbally "attacking" the teacher. Remember step one.
- Don't blame the teacher for everything that goes wrong with your child (most of the time, your child is not giving you the full story), however, if there is a concern you have about a situation, express it to the teacher in a calm, professional manner, and work together to find a solution.
- Offer suggestions for what works best with dealing with your child, whether it is academically or behaviorally-related.
If you remember these steps, your conference will most likely go well, but if you are unhappy with the way the teacher conducted the conference, that would be the time to call the principal. Don't call the principal pre-maturely (without talking over the issue with the teacher first); what you might think is a minor complaint could end up getting that teacher disciplined or fired, even when that was not YOUR intention. Proceed with caution when dealing with school-related issues.
If you are the Teacher
If you are the teacher at a parent-teacher conference, it is important to be well-prepared, and to deal with complicated issues delicately. There are many great parents out there, but there are also some "not so great" parents out there, so if you are concerned about how a parent may react to an issue, work it out with you principal (or assistant principal) to be present during the conference. Below, I have listed some tips for ensuring your conferences goes well:
- As stated above, be prepared. Have your students' grades readily available, and any documentation (with dates) of any positive and/or negative behavior of students (this way, if the parent is in disbelief, or denies that he/she knew about an issue, you will be able to present any papers with their signatures on notification papers, etc.). Having grades readily available also helps the teacher and parent know where to start when making a plan to help the student.
- Always begin by saying something positive about the student (save the "rough stuff" for later).
- Remember to work WITH the parent, to the best of your ability. You both want the same thing: for the student to be and/or feel successful.
- Ask for suggestions, from the parent, that work best when dealing with this parent's child/student. Parents usually know their children the best, so this information could help you manage this child's behavior, or know how to help this child be successful.
- If the parent becomes irate, for any reason, professionally and calmly excuse yourself, and notify your principal (he/she will most likely determine the next move).
If you are a Parent AND a Teacher!
If you are both a parent AND a teacher, I find this to be the trickiest role of them all. It is difficult to want to fight for your child's needs with all of your might, while also being sensitive to the challenges of the profession of teaching. While there are challenges, this role also gives you an advantage because you know what a good teacher looks like, and how difficult parents may conduct themselves. Therefore, you have a better hold on how you should conduct yourself during your parent-teacher conference with YOUR child's teacher, as well as the parent-teacher conferences you may hold with your students' parents. If you are unsure about how to conduct a parent-teacher conference, when you fit both roles, just remember the following:
- Be knowledgeable- for example, if your child's school offers online grading, make sure you are constantly viewing it, and contacting the teachers when you have questions. I know I was guilty of not viewing this when I was working full-time because I was so busy. I actually did not even know my daughter's school had this option until I called and asked. Therefore, if you are not sure if your child's school has the online grading that you most likely know well, make sure to call the school and ask.
- Be constantly aware of your child's behaviors- for example, is your child completing homework but not handing it in? Is your child not completing certain assignments at all and lying about it?
- Remember to be sensitive to both roles (the teacher and the parent), no matter which role you are in the moment. Relating to the other person will help you have a productive conference. Since you are knowledgeable about a teacher's job, you will be less likely to jump to conclusions about certain issues, unlike some other non-teaching parents.
- Express concerns, ideas, suggestions, and questions. This applies whether you are in the teacher role or the parent role at the conference, as these items are the main reasons for the conference.
- Always remember to be yourself, but be professional!
No matter whether you are the parent, teacher, or both, it is important to remember the purpose of the conference: your child or student's success. Working together only benefits the children/students, but when parents are quick to blame teachers for anything that goes wrong, it does not benefit the child's education at all, and in retrospect, if the teacher does not conduct himself/herself properly and professionally toward the parent, that also does an injustice to the student's education. In the end, being prepared, paying attention, and working together are the most important aspects to ensuring the success of a child.