If you are the parent of school-age children, you’re bound to be invited to a parent-teacher conference at some point during the school year. No matter how your child is doing academically, many teachers like to meet with the parents to discuss their students’ progress.
Attending a parent-teacher conference can seem incredibly daunting, especially if it’s your first one, but it’s nothing to worry about. These conferences are a great way to make sure your child is doing well and you’re supporting them to the best of your ability. If you want to make sure the conference is a positive experience for you, it’s important to understand its purpose and prepare yourself beforehand to make the most of it.
Many parents feel nervous before parent-teacher conferences and worry about what their child’s teacher may think. However, take it from someone who is both a parent and a teacher-just like you, the teacher only wants the best for your child. The key to your kid succeeding in school is a partnership between you and the educator. You will always be your child’s first teacher, guide, and mentor. You know them better than anyone else does, and their teacher needs your feedback just as much as you need theirs.
What is the purpose of a parent-teacher conference?
Parent-teacher conferences are an occasion for you to meet with your child’s teacher in order to discuss their progress and any concerns you may have, as well as to develop a plan for moving forward in the school year, especially if your child is struggling. If you’ve ever received a request to meet with your child’s teacher, your first thought may have been, “What did my child do?” Although parent-teacher conferences can seem intimidating and can sometimes have a negative connotation, it’s not always due to your child’s behavior.
It’s true that children who are falling behind are often prioritized when it comes to conferences. However, most teachers try to meet with all parents, regardless of how their child is doing. If the teacher contacts you for a parent-teacher conference, it doesn’t automatically mean your child is misbehaving in school.
There are various reasons why your child’s teacher may contact you, and whatever the reason is, remember that they want the best for your child, just like you do. There’s nothing that says you can’t have a parent-teacher conference if your child is doing well, but you should communicate with the school and the teacher to see what their expectations are for the conference. Some schools give preference to struggling students, and it’s important to know what to expect before you sign up.
Numerous studies have shown that students do well in school when their parents are truly partnered with the school and the teacher. As parents, we can get very busy, especially if we work or have multiple children. So, if your child’s teacher does contact you, it could be an attempt to keep you in the loop and make sure you’re aware of how your kid is doing. If you haven’t heard from your child’s school and are wondering how to request a meeting with the teacher, contact them and find out if they have a designated conference day. Many schools set aside days specifically for parents to arrange a conference with the teachers.
What to expect at a parent-teacher conference
Knowing what to expect before you attend the conference may help you feel at ease and be more prepared both mentally and physically. Depending on your child’s age, when you attend a parent-teacher conference, there may not be very much time set aside.
Many parent-teacher conferences only last 15-20 minutes. This is typically because teachers have a lot of conferences to get through, so they don’t always have an hour to spend with each parent.
Even though 15-20 minutes doesn’t seem like a lot of time, the teacher will be well prepared for what they would like to discuss with you in the allotted time. At a parent-teacher conference, the purpose is to discuss your child’s progress, and your being prepared will make it a more positive experience.
Here are a few things you can do to prepare for the conference:
Review your child’s recent work and grades
If the school has an online portal for grades, be sure to check your child’s most recent grades before the conference. This will save time and allow you to make the most of your time with the teacher. If you see any issues with their grades or have any questions about an assignment, you’ll be able to ask your child’s teacher when you meet with them.
Discuss with your child how they are doing/feeling about school
Your child’s teacher is likely going to share some information with you about your child and how they’re doing. To avoid being blindsided by any issues, talk to your child before the conference about how school is going.
If your kid is struggling in a certain subject or having an issue with another student, they may share it with you if they know you’ll be meeting with their teacher. Depending on their age, not all students will be upfront about what they’re struggling with, but it’s a good idea to get your child’s side of the story before meeting with their teacher.
Make a list of questions/concerns you have to bring with you
The best way to prepare for your parent-teacher conference is to think of what you would like to discuss before the meeting.
Whether you have specific concerns about your child’s grades or simply want to know how you can support their learning at home, writing down what you would like to bring up will ensure you don’t leave with any questions unanswered.
Virtual parent-teacher conferences
Virtual conferences have become quite common. With many safety precautions being taken due to the pandemic, it’s likely that you end up in a virtual parent-teacher conference.
There are many perks to virtual conferences for both you and the teacher. If you’re a working parent, you don’t necessarily need to leave work in order to attend. Since most conferences are usually relatively brief, you may even be able to take a short break and then return to your work. If you’re a stay-at-home parent, you don’t necessarily have to find a babysitter in order to attend the conference.
The biggest issue you can have during virtual conferences is a technical glitch. Here are some tips to prepare for a virtual conference:
Make sure you have the correct link
Your child’s teacher or school will likely send you a link where you will attend the conference. Don’t wait until the day of the meeting to try and locate it.
Make sure you’ve received it before the day of the conference so that you don’t have to scramble to find it and potentially turn up late.
Get familiar with the platform
There are many different platforms the parent-teacher conference might be on. Especially if it’s a platform you’re not completely familiar with, it’s important to practice beforehand. Some platforms, such as Zoom, have an app you can download, and it will make the process easier.
Make sure you know how to mute/unmute yourself, sign into the platform, and download any necessary apps before the day of the conference.
Set a reminder in your calendar
It can be a lot easier to be late or even miss a conference when you don’t have to physically get somewhere. Since it is virtual, you will want to make sure your computer or other device is turned on and charged. Set a reminder in your phone before the conference to give you enough time to get everything ready.
Questions to ask during parent-teacher conferences
Having some questions in mind before you attend a parent-teacher conference is one of the best ways to prepare and make the most of the time you have. Parent-teacher conferences are a great way to check up on how your child is doing in school. However, many parents aren’t sure what questions they should ask and end up not asking any. Not every question will apply to you, but if you’re looking for somewhere to start, here are 10 questions to ask at a parent-teacher conference:
- How can I best support my child’s learning at home?
- Can you tell me more about their progress in this subject?
- Is my child meeting the expectations for their grade level?
- What is the best way to communicate with you?
- Is my child showing any behavior issues?
- What should I expect from my child’s homework?
- What is my child’s relationship with other students?
- What are my child’s strengths and weaknesses?
- Is my child attentive in class?
- What additional resources would you recommend?
No matter what age your children are or how many you have, parent-teacher conferences are a part of life when you have school-age kids. Remember that your child’s teacher is on your side, and more than anything, they want to partner with you in the education process. Be yourself during the conference and come prepared to discuss just how wonderful your child truly is.