How You Can Get the Most Out of Parent Teacher Conferences by Preparing Before

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This article was written by Kathy Hanrahan on September 6, 2023, and published by WRAL News. 

Teachers (Adobe Stock)

Whether it is your first parent-teacher conference or not, you probably get nervous each time you walk into the school to speak to your child’s teacher. There is something about sitting in those tiny desks (if your child is an elementary school student!) and hearing about what your child is doing right or wrong that can cause some anxiety. Here’s how you can get the most out of your parent-teacher conferences:

What should I have prepared for a parent-teacher conference?

We asked current and former teachers for their best advice for parents preparing for parent-teacher conferences. Here’s what they suggest:

Look at the Monday folders that are sent home each week for your elementary school student.

Go through the work with the student. See what areas the child is struggling in and take note. Review all reports, for example, mCLASS, and be able to ask questions whether it is a concern or just to clarify what the scores mean.

Be on time and bring a list of questions.

Arrive early and be prepared with a list of questions or concerns written down. You can even bring in samples of your child’s work you might have questions about. Feel free to share personal information if you think it is important or to help build relationships.

Elizabeth Manning, a mother of two who grew up in a family of educators, suggests not being afraid to address your child’s emotional struggles even if the conference is focused on grades.

Keep an open mind. ‘Go in curious, not furious’

All teachers gave this same recommendation for parents, stressing that it is important to know that your child’s teacher has nothing but your child’s best interests in mind. “We are not judging the parent,” one teacher said. “We are here to help.”

Ashley Morris, a math tutor who has taught in public, private and charter schools in Wake County schools for a decade, suggests parents start by taking a deep breath.

“It can be difficult to do when it’s your kid, but remember that your child’s teacher is trying to help your student,” Morris said. “They may be concerned about something you’ve also noticed, or they may be seeing something you don’t usually see at home. In either case, their job is to inform you of what they’re seeing and to work with you as a team to resolve whatever issues might be occurring.”

Morris suggests going into the meeting “curious and not furious.” Find out all the facts, allow the teacher and your child (if present) to explain their observations and feelings.

Be prepared to take note of recommendations teachers make.

“Teachers and counselors may suggest different approaches. Be open to giving them a shot. Remember that they work with students like yours every day and that they often have many years of training and experience. Leverage their expertise,” Morris said.

Morris suggests being open to the school’s assistance options, like tutoring, counseling, or study groups. “Accepting help is not a sign of failure,” she said. “It’s a proactive step toward success.”

Sign up for a conference even if you don’t have any concerns.

Teachers have found that some parents decline conferences if they don’t feel they have a need or concern. “I just think it is important to get to know me as a teacher, the person that shares the day with your child, and conferences are a great way to do that,” one teacher said.