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How to Get the Most Out of Parent-Teacher Conferences

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By Jennifer Jipson, Ph.D.

Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

If you haven’t already, you will soon receive an invitation to meet with your child’s teacher for a parent-teacher conference. These meetings are intended to complement the brief daily interactions that happen at drop-off and pick-up by providing an opportunity for a more focused and extended conversation about your child. These conferences are an essential building block of positive home-School relationships. When parents and teachers work together as partners, children benefit academically, socially and emotionally. To take the best advantage of the meeting, recognize that you and your child’s teacher share the common goal of nurturing your child to be a curious and confident learner who interacts well with others. This perspective will set the stage for productive conversations about your child’s progress, strengths and challenges.

When interacting with your child’s teacher, plan to spend time sharing information about your child and actively listening to the teacher’s perspective and advice. Each of you has expertise relevant to your child’s learning and development. By taking a collaborative approach, you can work together to identify how best to inspire and support your child as an individual. As you prepare for your part in this conversation, think about the following factors:

  • What would you like to know about your child’s experiences at School? It’s typical in parent-teacher conversations to focus on individual children’s learning progress, but you should also plan to ask about your child’s friendships, classroom behaviors, activity interests and general mood at School. Your child’s views matter too, so find some time before the conference to find out who your child plays with at School, what they like to do and what they think about their teacher;
  • What would you like your child’s teacher to know about your child’s experiences at home? As a parent, you have unique knowledge about your children, and you have a long-term investment in their well-being and success. Sharing your understandings about your child’s skills, temperament and interests can help inform the teacher’s guidance strategies. The teacher also can benefit by knowing more about changes in family circumstances that might affect your child’s experiences at School;
  • What can you do to facilitate your child’s learning at home? Learning extends beyond the classroom and happens anytime and anywhere. Identify ways to build connections between home and School activities to reinforce and enrich the learning that is happening in both environments;
  • How can you make the most of this opportunity to learn about your teacher’s perspective on your child? Focus on listening for understanding instead of listening to reply. Celebrate your child’s achievements, and strive to understand the teacher’s view when talking about areas of need. You may check your understanding by paraphrasing what you hear the teacher saying. This will show a willingness to understand the teacher’s point of view, and it will provide a chance for clarifying any areas in which communication may not have been clear.

As you plan for your parent-teacher conference, keep these tips in mind and approach the conversation as a dedicated opportunity to engage with someone who also wants the best for your child.