Parent-teacher conferences are not just for parents who have concerns about their child in the classroom. These meetings provide an opportunity for parents to partner with teachers in providing a good learning experience for children.
Here’s how to strengthen that partnership at your child’s parent-teacher conference:
1. Prepare for the conference. Keep a folder with tests, papers, or any other topics you want to address. Do your research by talking to your child; find out how she is doing in class, what’s happening at lunch and recess.
2. Respect the teacher’s time. Be prompt, try not to bring other children and do not answer your cell phone during the meeting!
3. Begin with a positive attitude. Start with a compliment for the teacher before addressing concerns. Starting with a negative comment could put the teacher on the defensive.
4. Work together. Purpose to partner with your teacher by being a team player. Approach issues the teacher raises with the attitude of "We have to work together on this problem."
5. Remember that this is about your child, not you. The teacher is not trying to tell you how to parent. He is only there to help your child. No need to get defensive.
6. Listen and be open minded. A conference is for teachers to give parents information based on classroom observation. The teacher would not bring up an issue if it was not necessary.
7. Teachers are not the enemy. If you have a problem, no need to go on the attack. They care about your child and want to help you and your child resolve the issue.
8. Ask questions. After you’ve listened, it’s your turn to ask questions. Make a list beforehand so you’ll remember what’s important.
9. Learn the communication protocol. Ask the teacher her preferred method of communication: phone, email, or notes. Let the teacher know you want to be an available parent.
10. Ask how you can be involved. Whether you work full-time, part-time or not at all, involvement is about being aware of what's happening with your child's education, not just about volunteering in the classroom. What can you do at home to support what your child is learning at school? How can you help the teacher in planning for events? Can you help organize a class party?
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By staying involved and making your efforts known, you will be well on your way to a successful and happy school year. Make it a great one for you and your child!
Janis Meredith writes Jbmthinks, a blog on sports parenting and youth sports. After being a coach's wife for 27 years and a sports parent for 17, she sees issues from both sides of the bench.