Although parent-teacher conferences are often nerve-racking for all involved they enable parents and teachers to collaborate on a child's educational needs and to set goals moving forward. So put your anxiety aside and make the most of the experience!
Before the conference
Since most teachers schedule 30 minutes or less for a parent conference, it’s best to plan ahead to maximize the experience.
Talk to your child beforehand. Ask your child what he or she would like you to discuss at the meeting. You may want to say, "I'm going to be meeting with [name of teacher]; what will she tell me?" Your child's response will provide discussion ideas.
Come to the conference with a list of questions regarding your child's academic and social issues, as well as questions about the teacher's philosophy. Some good questions to ask may include:
What are my child's strongest and weakest subjects?
What can I do at home to extend my child's learning?
Is my child working up to his or her ability? If not, what can we do to change that?
How well does my child get along with classmates?
How do you evaluate my child?
How can you challenge my student if he is excelling? How can you support my child if he is falling behind?
What is your homework policy?
During the conference
Make the most of your meeting by arriving on time. Try not to bring babies or young children to the meeting as they can cause distractions.
It's a good idea to ask your most important questions first, just in case time runs out before you and the teacher have a chance to discuss them all.
Share information about your child. Bring sample work to the conference that you'd like to discuss. The more you share about your child—both strengths and weaknesses—the better the teacher will successfully meet his or her needs.
Raise issues of concern. Plan ahead of time how you will bring up these topics. When expressing concerns, be tactful but communicate the problem clearly. Listen to what the teacher has to say in response to the problem. Then, work together to find a solution.
Take notes during the conference so that you remember everything the teacher says. After the meeting, review your notes. If something is unclear, schedule a follow-up meeting with the teacher to clarify.
It's a good idea to end the conference by summing up decisions you've made together. If needed, ask to meet again.
After the conference
Share with your child only what is helpful, focusing as much as possible on the positive aspects. It's essential that your child understands that you and the teacher are there for support and to make his or her school experience the best it can be.
Start immediately on the action plan that you and the teacher worked out together. Discuss the plan with your child. Make sure he or she knows that you and the teacher care. To see if the action plan is working, watch your child's behavior and check your child's class work and homework.
Stay in regular contact with the teacher to discuss the progress your child is making. Meeting with your child's teachers should help build strong parent-teacher partnerships—partnerships that are needed if you and your child's teachers are to reach the common goal of helping your child obtain the best education possible.