Is it just me or are Parent Teacher Conferences the most awkward thing ever?
As the teacher, I struggle with them. No one really tells you how to be successful as a teacher in the conference, and obviously there is no chapter in the Parent Guidebook to conferences since, you know, there is no Parent Guidebook in general…oh, how I wish there was.
But, as a teacher and a mom, this is my best attempt to help you get the most out of conferences with your kids’ teachers.
1. Go. I know this one seems a little bit “duh”…but honestly, as a high school teacher, I only see 15 or 20 parents out despite having over 90 students. I know that it can be time consuming and inconvenient, but your child’s education is one of the most important parts of their successful transition into grown-up life. Your child is spending 7-ish hours of their day in this building, so meeting teachers, seeing where they spend their time and understanding what happens here every day important. Come walk the halls where your students walk.
2. Have a few questions ready. Often parents come to see me, sit down, and say nothing. SO AWKWARD. I can tell you the student’s grade and about what we do in class, but for the meeting to be most effective be ready to ask some questions. For example:
- What can I be doing at home to best prepare him for ______?
- What does my student need to do to get to the next level in your class?
- Where do you see room for improvement?
- What is my student doing well?
3. Get what you need, and move on. I relish the chance to meet my students’ parents. However, I find that sometimes parents want to hear or tell personal stories about their kids. Honestly, I want to do the same with my kids, but there are lots of students to see. So please find out what you need to know, and don’t linger too long.
4. Be ready to hear constructive criticism about your child’s performance. I find that I sugar-coat everything I say to parents. Personally, I think it is hard to hear and accept that my children are less than perfect (even though I know perfection isn’t real). So please don’t be offended or angry if a teacher tells you that your child has some areas where they can improve. Teachers are trying to do their best to provide your child a quality education, and sometimes your children (and mine) may need a little more work to be perfect.
5. Don’t talk about your student as if they aren’t there (if you bring your kid). It never occurred to me that people would bring their student to parent/teacher conferences, but they do. But I often find that they don’t include the student in the conversation. If you bring your kid with you, talk with them, not about them.
6. Don’t expect to solve the world’s problems in five minutes. If your child is truly struggling with a concept or subject, a quick meeting during parent/teacher conferences is not going to solve the problem. This conference is to lay the foundation for future communication about your student’s progress. It is an opportunity to put a face with a name and figure out the next step for your student’s success.
7. Remember, your teacher has a family to get home to. When the announcement is made that conference night is over, please be respectful of that and wrap things up. If you need more time, please schedule an appointment. Teachers are always ready to do what’s necessary to help your kid.
Remember these tips and go see your teachers when conference time rolls around. We are the smiling individuals on the other side of the coffee cup (or QT Big Q), and we are glad you’re here.