The Parent-Teacher Conference
Brought to FEN by National PTA®
Whether your student is in elementary, middle, or secondary school, parent-teacher conferences are important. It is a chance for you to ask questions about classes or your student's progress. It is also a time for you and the teacher to work together as a team to discuss ways you both can help your son or daughter. If your school does not schedule regular conferences, you can request them.
There are a couple of things you can do ahead of time that will help lay a foundation with the teacher for helping your student:
- Set up an appointment. If you are going to a meeting that was scheduled by the teacher or school, ask beforehand how much time you will have. If you need more time or an additional appointment, let the teacher know up front. If you need to initiate a meeting with the teacher, make a phone call or write a quick note to let the teacher know the purpose of the meeting. If you can't meet with teachers during school hours, then set up a time and location that is good for both you and the teacher.
- Talk to your child. Find out what he thinks are his best subjects and what subjects he likes the least. Ask why. Also, ask your student if there is anything he would like you to talk about with his teacher. Make sure your child doesn't worry about the meeting. Help him understand that you and his teacher are meeting to help him. If your student is in middle or high school, you may want to include him in the conference.
- Make a list. Before you go to the meeting, it might help to write down the list of things you want to talk about with the teacher. For example:
- Questions about your student's progress
- How you, the teacher, and the school can work together to help your child
- Questions about the school's programs or policies
- Your student's home life, personality, concerns, habits and hobbies, and other things you feel the teacher should know about that might help in working with the student (e.g., religious holidays, music lessons, part-time jobs, a sick relative)
The questions you ask during the conference can help you express your hopes for the student's success in class and for the teacher. It's a good idea to ask the important questions first, in case time runs out. The teacher's answers should help you and the teacher work together to help your student. Following are some questions you may want to ask:
- Questions regarding your child
- What subject does my child seem to like most? Least?
- What can I do to help my child with subjects he finds difficult? How can I help him study? Prepare for class? Improve his work?
- Is my child trying as hard as he can?
- Does he participate in class discussions and activities?
- Is my child in different classes or groups for different subjects? Which ones? How are the groups determined?
- How well does my child get along with others?
- Has my child missed classes?
- Have you noticed changes in the way my child acts? For example, have you noticed squinting, tiredness, or moodiness that might be a sign of physical or other problems?
- Questions regarding the teacher's methods
- How are you measuring my child's progress? Through homework assignments? Tests? Portfolios? Class participation? Projects?
- What kinds of tests do you give? What do the tests show about my child's progress? How does my child handle taking tests?
- How often do you usually assign homework? What types of homework assignments can I expect to see?
- What can I be doing at home with my child to reinforce what you're teaching in class?
- How can we work together to help my student?
You should expect the teacher to show you samples of your son's or daughter's work. The teacher should also suggest ways in which you can work together to help your student do better in school.
If a student is having problems, it's easy for parents and teachers to get upset during a meeting. To avoid this situation, focus the conversation on what can be done for your son or daughter immediately. Ask the teacher to work with you on finding a solution and developing an action plan.
Develop an Action Plan
Before you leave, you and the teacher should agree on specific plans--that you both will work on--to help your child do better. This is the most important part of the meeting. It will become your and the teacher's action plan.
- Be sure you understand what the teacher suggests. If it's not clear, ask him or her to explain.
- Set up a way to check on your child's progress. You and the teacher can decide how best to stay in touch, such as through phone calls, notes, or additional meetings.
- It's a good idea to end the conference by reviewing what you discussed and restating your action plan. This is also a good time to set up your next meeting.
After the Conference
- Start on the action plan you and the teacher created.
- Talk about the plan with your child. Make sure your child knows that you and the teacher care.
- To see if the action plan is working, watch your child's behavior and check on classwork and homework. Ask how your child feels about school.
- Stay in touch with the teacher to discuss your child's progress.
- Express your appreciation to your child and the teacher as progress is made.
In summary, meeting with your child's teachers can and should build strong parent-teacher partnerships. By participating in conferences and establishing a good relationship with teachers, you can help your child have a great school year.
Copyright 1996 by The National PTA® and NEA.