As back-to-school becomes a distant memory, parent-teacher conferences are the next big item on the school days agenda. Whether you’ve come to love or hate them over the years as a parent, these parent-teacher conference tips will help you make the most out of your short time with your child’s teacher to help set them up for success for the rest of the school year.
How can I make the most of parent-teacher conferences?
So the question is, what do you really want to get out of parent teacher conferences? The teachers will be ready and prepared to discuss your child’s strengths and needs and will likely present samples of work that your child has produced over the past couple of months. You may even see some pedagogical documentation through video clips, drawings and photo images that are being collected to observe student learning. Teachers will have used rigorous, evidence-based data to present your child’s learning in the classroom.
Parent-teacher conferences are a great time to create a shared understanding of student learning and how it has carried over into your child’s life outside of school. You will be able to see how your child is progressing and how the teacher is personalizing the learning to meet your child’s needs. Every child learns at their own pace and in their own way!
To get the most out of parent-teacher conferences, begin by asking the teacher how they are supporting your child and what tips they can recommend. This will open the conversation and give the teacher a chance to share how the learning can continue in the home which can impact the progress in profound ways.
This partnership can play a huge role in your child’s future success in the continuum of learning. It will also give your child time to practice the skills they are learning at school when they are in their home — when they have the opportunity to rehearse, revise and make mistakes in a non-threatening environment, like their own home, they can bring it back to the classroom to move their learning forward.
Ask about socializing and friendships
One of our favorite questions to get and to ask at parent-teacher conferences is “Who is my child socializing with?” When our children come home from school and we ask them about their day, they typically answer, “It was fine.” When we ask the teacher who they find our children gravitating to, they typically have a good understanding of who they work well with in small groups, who they spend recess with and who they tend to partner with. This gives us a better understanding of how our children learn and who they learn best with. The teacher can also give us tips on how to progress social skills through additional after school programs where they see your child’s skill base.
Ask about learning and engaging
Be an active listener and hear what the teacher is telling you. You are there to learn about your child’s progress in school. We know you want to be polite and engage in small talk, but now is not the time. You only have a short window with your teacher! You may want to express a few points about how your child learns from previous experience or your child’s interest to help engage in learning. Try to establish an action plan and a line of communication for future conversations. Ask about challenges your child is having or needs so that you can work with your child at home.
Remember your child is unique!
One of the most important things to remember throughout your child’s education is that your child is their own person. As we mentioned, every child learns at the own rate. In all of our years of teaching, we have always been asked the same question, “How is my child doing in relation to the rest of the class?” Our tip: Don’t compare your child to others. Instead, ask specific questions about how your child is developing in relation to age-appropriate curriculum. For example, “Is my child meeting the expectations in numeracy and data management?” or “Is my child picking up the skills to be a strong reader?” The more you ask, the more you will learn!
We know that it is never fun to hear that your child is having difficulty. Always remember that you can’t help if you don’t know what’s going on. So while you may be upset, remember to take a deep breath and ask how you can help. Keep an open line of communication with the teacher. They will provide you with activities to do with your child at home or strategies to implement. Open communication ensures you are all working as a team.
If you feel that there was not enough time at the interview (there never is!) schedule another time to talk. Try to arrange an email or telephone conversation in the near future.
Try to establish a positive relationship with the Teacher, your child will be with them the entire year.