Parent-teacher conferences are an important step in building the bridge between home and school to ensure the highest quality of education for children. Conferences often occur twice during the school year, at regular intervals. Parents sometimes feel uncomfortable about conference time and, therefore, allow the teacher to completely control the meeting. A parent should view conferences as a time for both teacher and parent to share information about the child. When both teacher and parent come to the conference prepared, a positive, useful experience is more likely to occur. As conferences are usually brief, understanding the purpose for the conference and preparing for it are essential.
Purpose of Conferences
The purpose of parent-teacher conferences is to discuss the academic, behavioral, and social well-being of the child, and successful conferencing between parents and teachers is one way for parents to help their kids in school. The purpose of the first conference, which occurs early in the school year, should be to discuss the teacher's initial impressions of the child, to set goals together for the year, and to allow the parents to share insights about their child with the teacher. The purpose of the second conference should be to evaluate the student's progress through the year, examine how well the earlier goals were met, and to discuss summer needs and possibly placement for the following year. Often, parents are given their child's portfolio of work collected throughout the year at the final conference.
Preparing for Parent-Teacher Conferences
- Have a game plan for each child going into the conference. Write down things you want to discuss with each child's parents so you do not forget anything.
- Avoid comparing one child to another in the classroom. The focus of each conference should be on the individual child and his own progress and behaviors.
- Have the children prepare pictures or poems to showcase their talents and allow the parents to have a special token to take home from the conference.
- Speak with any other teachers that work with the children prior to the conferences. This will help you give an accurate report to the parents regarding their child and his school progress, work and behaviors.
- Schedule enough time to thoroughly discuss each child with his parents. This will ensure that all necessary points and issues are discussed and no one feels rushed or as if they are leaving things out.
- Have teacher aides in the classroom to keep the children busy if parents bring them. This allows you to candidly discuss any issues without upsetting the child in question.
- Talk with your spouse a few days prior to the conference to figure out what questions and concerns you have regarding your child. Write down all things you want to discuss so you do not forget to bring anything up.
- Speak with your child, depending on his or her age, regarding any issues or concerns she has at school. Be sure to include these in your discussion with the teacher.
- Allow the teacher to take the lead at the conference, but let her know you do have questions and concerns that you would like to have addressed before the conference ends.
- Stay focused on school performance and progress. It is easy to get sidetracked and start talking about home or funny stories, but this takes valuable time away from your conference time with the teacher.
- Do not discuss any other children in the classroom unless it is to address a problem your child might be having with him. This is unprofessional and unproductive.
- Leave your child in the care of a sitter if possible. This allows you to fully focus on the teacher and what he has to say about your child. If you must bring your child, be sure to bring plenty of activities to keep your child busy while you are with the teacher.
School conferences are a vital part of making your child's school experience both positive and successful. Understanding the purpose for conferences, preparing for the meeting in advance, and covering academic, behavioral, and social issues can help ensure a useful, positive conference experience. Fruitful conferences between parents and teachers help to give children the best school experience possible.