Tips for Parent Teacher Conferences
Source: Tween Parent Staff
One of the rituals at the end of the school year is attending parent/teacher conferences. It's the perfect time to assess your preteen's progress and set new goals for the next academic year. TweenParent.com asked Buffy Smith, Ph.D., formally the school psychologist at Bank Street, School for Children and a practicing child therapist in New York City for tips on having a productive conference.
- Know how much time you have, and BE ON TIME!! Those few minutes with your child's teacher are precious!
- Think ahead of time about your agenda. Do you have specific things to ask or talk about? Let the teacher know you have things to discuss at the beginning of the conference and ask that she build time for your concerns into her plan for the time you'll spend together.
- If you've already received a school report or report card, read it thoroughly before the conference. Bring it with you, highlighted, and know what questions you have about it. If the teacher is reiterating what you've already read, let her know that you have other questions, or that you'd like her to flesh out her observations with examples.
- Include your preteen in the conference as much as possible. Gather his/her questions before the meeting and give appropriate feedback afterwards. If your school allows it, let your preteen attend some or all of the conference (depending what is age appropriate), so they can experience hearing it all for themselves, and even participating.
- Be sure to LISTEN! If you find you're talking more than the teacher, stop yourself. Beginning of the year conferences are more for talking, (you have your child to describe, after all!), end of the year are more for listening. See what your teacher has to share about your child at school.
- If something BIG emerges, something new or surprising or upsetting such as a concern about learning, development, social relationships, or behavior, recognize the fact that you cannot have a complete and thorough discussion of it in a 20 minute conference, and say so. Tell the teacher that you need time to think about what she has said, and request then and there a follow up meeting. Also, at this meeting or the next, ask the teacher to be specific about her concerns. Ask her to give examples, to describe the data on which she has drawn her conclusions. Ask if it might be appropriate to have other/additional school personnel at a follow up meeting.
- Be sure to thank your preteen's teacher for his efforts on behalf of your child, as genuinely and specifically as you can. Aside from being just good to do, expressing your appreciation contributes to a relationship between your family and the school going forward. You might also ask the teacher for a recommendation or two for the summer, something to keep the learning alive.
- Finally, set up goals for the following school year. Consider how your child has evolved and how you would like them to be challenged going forward. Keep notes, so you can convey this information to your preteen's new teachers in September.