When I was in 2nd grade I remember a little boy telling our teacher that his mom was pregnant. The teacher’s response was so infectious that I decided to tell her that my mom was pregnant too. I wanted some of that love and excitement passed my way. However, when it came time for the Parent/Teacher Conference my mom was not feeling the love. She came home that night very angry with me. Hmmm…I wonder why?
Perhaps my mom should have read this blog that would have accurately prepared her for such things. Oh ya, not possible since it didn’t exist yet. So here it goes.
#1 Ask your child what he/she feels is going really well in school
Communication with your child is one of the most important things you can do to get prepared. You want to start off with the positivethings first. These are the things that your child can be proud of. If your child only gives a one word response, then you want to probe him/her more to get more details. Here are some probing stems that may be helpful, just choose one or two to help the conversation along.
Tell me more about that….
Why do you feel that way?
Are there any other kids that are really good at that in your class as well?
What makes you really good at _______?
Do other people in your class notice that you are good at that as well?
Does your teacher see that as an important skill? Why or why not?
#2 Ask your child what he/she is struggling with in school
This question is really important because what your child sees as difficult and what his/her teacher sees as difficult could be different and you want to be an advocate for your child. Sometimes your child may be struggling with something that the teacher does not even notice. You can speed up the process of the teacher needing to get to know the child, by just letting him/her know that your child is struggling with something.
The following probes can be used to help your child in communicating this.
Have you told your teacher that you are struggling with this?
Do you feel comfortable talking with your teacher?
What do you think would happen if you told your teacher this?
Are there any ways that you are getting support for this in school?
Are other kids struggling with this too? What are some things they are doing to get better at it?
What do you think your teacher would say if she knew that you were struggling with this? Do you feel he/she is supportive?
#3 Is there anything that you need to know about before you attend the parent/teacher conference
Let your child know that you are going to be having a conference with his/her teacher. Sometimes kids are allowed in the conference and sometimes they are not. Ask your child or the child’s teacher to find this out. Then ask your child if there is anything that you need to know before you attend this conference. This is the one that my mom could have used. Although, I am not sure if I would have told her about the conversation I had with my teacher about her being pregnant. It can, though, at least open up the door to conversation and give your child an opportunity to come clean about anything that may need to be made visible. If you know ahead of time, you will be less likely to take anything personally and will be more equipped to handle it.
#4 Email the teacher to verify the time of the conference and ask if there is anything you need to know beforehand to help prepare you.
Don’t assume that if there is a problem that the teacher will contact you. This is not always the case. Sometimes teachers wait till the parent teacher conference to discuss issues that are occurring and then the parent becomes angry because he/she feels like he/she was not in tune with what was happening at school. It is also an opportunity for you to mention some of the things that your child is loving and struggling with briefly. This will prepare the teacher for anything that you feel needs to get discussed. An example e-mail could look like this.
I am so excited to meet with you on (insert date and time) to talk about my son/daughter. (insert child’s name) has told me that he/she is loving __________. She has also told me that she is struggling with __________ and I hope that we can come up with some solutions to this. Is there anything that you think that I may need to know before we meet? Again, I am looking forward to getting to sit down and chat and I am so grateful for all of the hard word that you put in on a daily basis. Thank you for your time.
(insert your name)
If you put these 4 tips into action you will set yourself up for a very successful parent/teacher conference. You won’t feel side swept with any information and you will have a feeling of really knowing what is happening at school for your child.
P.S. How could a tool this be helpful for you? Have you ever had a bad parent/teacher conference where something like this would have been helpful? Share your comments below.