Whether your child is succeeding, struggling or rebelling, parent-teacher conferences are a critical part of making sure that school is a positive experience for him or her. However, it can be difficult to figure out how you want the conference to go.
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If your child and the teacher are butting heads, it’s hard to avoid going in with a combative mindset that just leads to you and the teacher glowering at each other; if your child is doing well or if he’s struggling but you don’t know why, you might wonder exactly what you and the teacher are supposed to talk about.
Use these tips so that you and the teacher can work together to help your child succeed.
Talk With Your Child
You probably already talk with your child about his or her day at school, but be especially sure to do so before the conference. Part of this, of course, is asking your child about how well he or she understands the work and gets along with the teacher, but there’s more to it than that. Ask them about their relationships with their classmates and what sorts of activities they do during the day. Your child might have trouble focusing if they are sitting with either bullies or chatty friends, or might find some of the activities too boring or over stimulating.
Do Your Homework
Look at your child’s homework and school supplies before you go in to the conference. If at all possible, watch your child doing their homework so you can get an idea of what they are doing. Does it look like he or she is trying or just filling in answers at random? Is the TV or radio on in the background? Are folders, notebooks and binders organized? If their teacher says that their work doesn’t show enough effort, you’ll be able to communicate better if you know whether and why this is true.
Explain Your Child’s Strengths and Weaknesses
Make a list of what you see as your child’s strengths and weaknesses to share with the teacher. If your child is struggling, the teacher may not know them well enough to understand the best ways to reach out to them to help. If your child tends to get distracted and needs to sit in the front row, or is terrible at tests but thrives at projects, tell the teacher this.
You may be utterly convinced that your child’s teacher is incompetent, or even that he or she is actively out to get your child, but you can’t go into a conference with a combative attitude.
If you immediately go in on the attack, your child’s teacher will be putting all their energy into defending and justifying themselves rather than working with you to help your child. Keep your emotions in check and have a positive attitude.
If you’re concerned about your child’s teacher, bring in specific examples of the things that concern you, and use “I” statements. For instance, if your child failed a project and you think he or she should have passed, say, “I don’t understand how this project was graded. Could you explain that to me, please?” You may find out that the teacher’s standards are as bizarre and arbitrary as you thought, or you may learn that your child completely misunderstood the assignment, but you won’t know unless you go in with an open mind.
Chances are that when the session is over, you’ll only remember a few of the key points. By jotting down notes as you go, you’ll have a record of the entire conference, giving you a list of things to try out at home to help your child.
Give Relevant Background
If you know that something is going on at home that’s affecting your child’s performance, let the teacher know. It’s understandable that your child will be stressed and less able to focus if you’re divorcing, moving, having a baby or if there’s been an illness or death in the family.
The teacher should also know if your child is working through medical issues; sleep troubles, new medication or general poor health can all affect your child’s performance. If your teacher knows that there’s a reason, then they are more likely to cut your child a little slack.