7 Quick and Easy Ways to Make the Most of Your Parent-Teacher Conference This School Year
Communication between home and school is essential to every student’s education. When parents and educators can work together to identify concerns and celebrate successes, students benefit from support in all areas of their lives.
According to a study by the National Education Association, many parents and educators already value their collaboration. Nearly half of surveyed parents gave an "A" grade to their relationship with their child’s teacher, and many more described their relationships as "open" and "great."
However, the survey also revealed that there are some key differences in how teachers and parents see their relationship. The number of face-to-face meetings between parents and educators was one area of contention. Although 71% of educators felt they held enough conferences—usually two over the course of the school year—only 48% of parents felt they had enough conferences with their child’s teacher.
Do we truly need more parent-teacher conferences, or is there a way to make these twice-yearly meetings more effective for parents? In an article titled "Report Card Time Has Come and Gone," attorney and former Washington, D.C., educator Nigel M. Atwell noted that parent-teacher conferences are often only 15 minutes long. Trying to address many issues during a short time period can leave parents confused as to how their child is really doing in school.
Preparing before the meeting is one way to help parents use this essential time to truly connect with their child’s teacher. Try these simple tips to make the most of your parent-teacher conferences:
1. Write down your questions before the meeting
Have you ever been at a meeting and found yourself desperately trying to remember what you wanted to say? We’ve all been there. Fortunately, there’s a relatively easy solution: Write down your questions for the teacher before the conference. Consider keeping a running list in your day planner or calendar in the weeks leading up to the meeting, adding new questions or concerns as they arise.
Since time goes quickly during a parent-teacher conference, be sure to bring up your most important concerns or questions as soon as possible. This is also helpful for your child’s teacher. If they know what issues are most important to you, it’s easier to tailor the conference to your needs.
3. Ask for explanations
Education terminology and grade-level expectations can change over time. If an educator uses a term that you don’t understand, don’t be shy. Ask them to clarify so you’re all on the same page.
4. If there’s time, ask for an edtech demonstration
The edtech revolution means your child may be using gadgets in the classroom that you never dreamed of in your school days. If you’ve never seen a smart board, tablet, or literacy software in action, this is the perfect opportunity to ask your child’s teacher how it works. Tip: If you have questions about a specific device, send an email or make a phone call before the conference to let your child’s teacher know. If educators know you’d like a demonstration in advance, they can have the device turned on and ready to go when you arrive.
5. Clarify the stakes
During the conference, your child’s teacher may show you the results of assessments, evaluations, and other data-driven reports. While some of these results might impact your child’s final grade for the class, others simply show what skills your child needs to work on. If you aren’t sure what the assessment results are measuring or why they are important, be sure to ask!
6. Identify concerns and successes you see at home
Although educators see how your child does at school, you are the expert on how your child does at home. Have you noticed your son reading more for pleasure? Is your daughter struggling with comprehension questions? Tell the teacher! They would love to celebrate your child’s progress with you and brainstorm solutions for areas of concern.
7. Ask for your child’s input
At a time when student-led conferences are becoming more and more popular, you may have already encountered a parent-teacher conference that included your child as well. If not, ask your child for their perspective before you attend a meeting with their teacher. Specific questions might include:
What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned in class this semester?
What skills do you feel you’ve mastered?
What skills would you like to improve?
Parent-teacher conferences are a great opportunity for families and educators to share insights about their students. Even within a short time frame, these face-to-face meetings can help build bridges between home and school. Use these tips to prepare before your next conference and make the most of your time together.
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