Five tips for a successful parent-teacher conference

parent and girl walking into schoolIt’s mid-September, and many of our schools are either in the thick of parent-teacher conferences or preparing for them. This is a great opportunity for schools and families to work together to ensure the best educational experience possible for your child. Here are five tips to help you make the most out of parent-teacher conference time:

  1. Prepare. Become familiar with the standards and curriculum for the grade level of your child. Have questions ready if there are things you don’t understand. And, of course, show up and be on time.
  2. Share. Use conference time as an opportunity to learn more about your child and to try to help the teacher understand him or her better as well. Share their strengths and weaknesses, hobbies and interests. Talk about your child’s personality, how they react when frustrated and what makes them happy. And share any information that may affect learning or behavior, such as an illness or diagnosis.
  3. Ask. Each classroom is different and each teacher has his or her own style. Ask questions regarding grading policies, expectations and classroom management strategies used. All of these things determine the type of experience your child will have in school, and this knowledge will help you to support the teacher’s efforts at home.
  4. Listen. We all love to hear how great our children are, but you should be prepared to hear about areas that need improvement. Being defensive or making excuses is rarely productive. Instead ask for examples and more explanation if you don’t understand or disagree with something the teacher has said. Ask what strategies the teacher is using to help your child grow in weak areas, and what you can do to help at home.
  5. Follow-up. Teachers are available to answer questions, and they welcome parent involvement. Find out the best way to contact the teacher, and if academic or behavioral challenges were addressed, make a plan and check in on progress regularly.

For more in-depth information, the Harvard Family Research Project has created useful tip sheets for parents, teachers and principals that provide guidance and suggestions.