School Tips for Parents-- Conferences
Some parents look forward to school conferences, while others dread them. As a parent you think you have a pretty good idea what the teacher is going to say, but there's always the possibility you might be surprised about what your child is doing at school. Before conference time you really hear only one perspective-- your child's.
Conference time is important because it gives parents the opportunity to meet with the teacher to discuss your child in terms of academics, behavior, and socialization. During the conference you hopefully will gain insight into how your child is progressing and further your relationship with your child's teacher. To make the most of conference time, consider the following tips.
Before the conference
- Parents should go to a conference prepared. Take time before hand to talk to your child about how they feel about school. Some questions you might ask: Do you like school? Why or why not? What do you like most about school? What do you like least? Some basic questions can provide you with insights about how your child is getting along at school both academically and socially. This information you get from your child will help you prepare for the conference.
- Make a list of your questions and concerns. If you go into the meeting with a list you won't forget what important issues you want to discuss.The teacher will likely have an agenda because s/he has a limited amount of time to meet with each student's parent(s), but let the teacher know you also have items you would like to discuss. Most teachers wil try to be accommodating and give you an opportunity to share your concerns.
- Be on time. Typically scheduled conference times are limited in the amount of time because the teacher has many parents to meet. If you are not on time, you will likely have your conference time shortened because the teacher has been encouraged to stay on schedule. By being on time, you ensure the liklihood you will get the most possible time to discuss your child with the teacher.
At the conference
- Start the meeting in a positive way. Smile or give the teacher a compliment. This will help to put the teacher at ease and allows an effective discussion to develop.
- Be an active listener. Look at the teacher while s/he is speaking to you. Don't be distracting by tapping a pencil, answering your cell phone, and shuffling papers. The purpose of the conference is to discuss your child in the classrooom environment; the topic is important so pay attention.
- Expect to hear both positive and negative remarks about your child. A parent should not go to a conference expecting to hear just compliments about their child. The conference is an opportunity to cooperate and develop ideas on how to make the most of your child's educational experience.
- If the teacher uses words or educational jargon you don't understand, ask for clarification. You need to understand what the teacher is attempting to tell you.
- Stay focused. You are at the conference to discuss your child, so make it a point to not discuss irrelevant issues. Don't talk about last month's PTA meeting or what happened down the street. Remember your time is limited, and you are there to discuss your child's education.
- Don't waste time discussing issues the teacher cannot change. The teacher does not likely develop the policies of the school, and in many cases, curriculum is developed by the district, not the teacher. Oftentimes, a teacher may not necessarily agree with decisions made by the administration, but has to follow the rules. Remember the purpose of a conference is to discuss your child in the classroom, and the teacher will provide you with that information during a conference if you don't get the teacher off track.
After the conference
- Thank the teacher for taking time to meet with you and discuss your child.
- You should have a good idea about your child's behavior and acadmic progress. Also, you should have some ideas for activities or strategies you can use at home to further enhance skills learned at school.
- Take some time to discuss with your child information you received at the conference. Highlight areas where your child is making steady progress and suggest areas where your child may need to work a little harder. Help your child with suggesting some ways s/he could improve in weaker areas. Perhaps studying five more minutes a night, more pleasure reading to develop literacy skills, or getting to bed a bit earlier.
Conferences are important meetings for both parents and teachers. The meeting offers both parties an opportunity to learn important information from each other and devise a plan to ensure that a child is given the necessary tools to succeed in the classroom. Make the most of your conference time because your child and his/her education is important.
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