It’s that time again – time for the first Parent Teacher Conferences of the year! Yay! These meetings can be stressful for everyone involved. Students can be nervous about what teachers might tell their parents. Parents can be nervous about what they are going to hear. And, teachers can be nervous about what they need to say or how it is going to be received.
As a parent, if you go in with a list of questions that you would like answered, you are more likely to leave your conference with a clear picture and plan of how to continue moving forward for the rest of the year.
Here are some questions that I like to ask that don’t have a lot to do with basic academics:
- What would you like to know about my child? The teacher may have only known your child for a few weeks. Let the teacher know what makes your child different – motivators, behaviors, strengths and weaknesses. If teachers know their students, they have more tools in their toolbox to help the student succeed. Let the teacher know if you have had any changes at home recently, since life changes affect children, too.
- Is my child currently meeting your classroom expectations regarding behavior? Be prepared to hear a range of answers. We all have perfect angels, but sometimes, they make their own choices. Also, take a picture of your child, just in case. I heard some super surprising information at my youngest’s Kinder conference and asked the teacher to verify we were discussing the correct child. (For the record, she knew who he was, his quiet and compliant behavior was just shocking to me.) Also, let the teacher know if there are other students in the class that will bring out different behaviors in your child. (For instance, if Nick sits at a table with all girls, he will flirt with them all day long which could be distracting.)
- Is my child fitting in with the class socially? Sometimes we, as parents, forget that student success is not always determined by their learning ability. If your child is caught up in third grade girl drama, their schoolwork will be impacted. Kids don’t always tell their parents they are being bullied. And, rarely do kids tell their parents they are a bully. Make sure you have a clear picture of how their school days are going so you can guide them in the right direction.
- My child spends (fill in the blank) seconds/minutes/hours/days/months on homework. What was your expectation of the time it should take them to complete their homework? If you child is not doing homework, you might find out that they are receiving homework. If their homework is literally taking years off your life, the teacher might not be aware of that and might want to revamp their plans. This is a time that y’all can work together to find a compromise.
- How many projects are you planning on doing this year and will there be any special supplies needed? Look, if you are going to need lots of poster paper, it’s nice to know early so you can go ahead and buy stock in it as well.
- Are there any websites or applications can my child use in their spare time to help support your lessons? Let’s be real – kids use technology. Rather than spend their time running mazes or crushing candy, have them download apps or visit websites that will reinforce classroom skills.
- My preferred mode of communication is text/email/phone call/Batsignal. What is the best way for me to contact you and when is the best time to contact you? If your teacher’s conference period is during a time when you are unavailable, let them know. You don’t want a miscommunication to cause problems.
- What can I do that will help you help my child be as successful as possible? Parent-Teacher partnerships are powerful. Talk with your teacher and find out what they need. Do they need someone to cut out lamination? Do they need someone to sharpen pencils? Do they need a Diet Coke? Y’all are a team – sometimes team members need help and encouragement.
After meeting with your new teammate, shoot them a quick email or note recapping the meeting from your perspective and thanking them for the fellowship. And, of course, talk to your child about your discussion. Let them know what was discussed and the game plan for the rest of the year. Once your student realizes everyone is on the same team, your student will feel more comfortable at school and will be more successful!