Don’t Be Short-Changed in These Important Meetings

I remember the first parent/teacher conference I attended. I found myself uncomfortably perched on a tiny kindergarten size chair at a very short table. While waiting for the teacher, I felt nervous, completely vulnerable and unprepared. Even though the teacher was warm and informative, I walked away asking myself, “That’s it?”

Do your homework

Before the conference, ask your student about the class and teacher. Learn what they like best and least about the class. Even very young learners can provide some interesting input.

Prepare a document

Express your observations, concerns, compliments and questions on paper. This can serve as the basis of your input at the conference. Bring two copies to the meeting: one for you and one to leave with the teacher

Discuss class placement for next year

If the spring conference occurs before next years classes are set in stone, use this opportunity to give your recommendations as to which teacher or class would best meet your students needs.

Take a relative or friend with you

This provides good support for you as well as an additional set of ears. Take notes. Consider having your companion record the meeting for you. Let the teacher know who will be accompanying you to the conference.

Have a positive attitude

Assume that the teacher wants your student to succeed. Remember a conference should be a two-way conversation. View the teachers input as an opportunity to learn more information about your student’s needs. Share your input, using the document you have prepared.

Define the next steps

If you have concerns that need addressing, don’t leave the conference with out asking:

  • What is the next step needed to resolve this issue?
  • Who will be responsible for that step?
  • When (a specific date) will the next step occur?

Request a meeting, if a one-on-one conference opportunity isn’t offered. Some districts don’t offer individual conferences in middle school or high school, offering instead, a student-led “portfolio night”. You can still have an individual conference by merely requesting “a meeting” to discuss your student’s progress. A good educator will welcome the opportunity to visit with an interested parent.

Consider requesting a conference before school starts for the year

Expectations for the school year should be the topic of this conference. Additionally, share helpful information about your student. If a before-school, face-to-face meeting isn’t possible, send a letter of introduction to the teacher, expressing your thoughts and requesting an opportunity to visit over the phone.

Create and maintain a file on your student

Document your observations, questions and concerns about your student and the school, as well as your interactions with school personnel. This comes in handy as a memory jogger when preparing for a conference or as important documentation if a problem arises. Always record the date, time, issue, thoughts, conversations, names of people involved, etc. Save all correspondence from the school (e.g., report cards, letters) in this file.

Always remember, you are responsible for your child’s education

While teachers change in your student’s life annually, you remain as the only constant from kindergarten through college. It is your role to oversee your child’s education to ensure his/her needs are met. You can’t afford to be a passive participant.