Welcome to September, which means slightly cooler weather, Johnny Appleseed, visits to the apple orchard, and amazing apple pies. For those of us who work in schools September also presents one of the most anticipated weeks of the school year: Parent-Teacher Conferences. It is well known that many parents and teachers communicate more consistently through e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook but the individual one on on conference is a sacred time in our year. Here are a few tips to help navigate your parent teacher conference, and help you leave feeling like you know everything about your child at school.
Be Prepared to Listen
Although fall conferences happen within the first quarter of the school year, your child’s teacher has gathered a lot of information and wants to share it with you. Teachers will share important progress indicators, these are usually not grades, to help you paint the picture of where your child stands within the same age and grade peer group. LISTEN! The progress indicators shared are many times more important than an actual grade. Take note to the expected performance for this time of year and where your child is performing. This is the type of data teachers use consistently to make decisions about learning experiences in the classroom. Sure, grades are important; however, unless you really understand what the grade represents there is little difference between an A or C. Many teachers will also share their insight on how your child is growing socially in the context of school.
Be Prepared to Ask Questions
You are going to have questions, and your teacher wants to answer them. Most often we hear parents report they feel like there is never enough time to ask their questions. My son’s teacher sent home a request for questions prior to the conference so she can ensure there is enough time to talk about what is important to us. If you have specific questions, communicate them prior to the conference. This is a big tip – a teacher can tailor the conference to your needs if there is information you want to discuss. You can do this via e-mail, voicemail, or write a note. In our school we have 15 minutes per conference, and I know that isn’t adequate time. I plan to prioritize the questions I have to make sure we have an opportunity to talk about my biggest questions. The rest can follow up in an e-mail, a follow up phone call, or an additional time to meet if necessary. Remember, teachers are available to you all year long!
Thank Your Teacher
Being a classroom teacher shouldn’t be thankless job. No matter what your questions or concerns, be thankful. Showing genuine gratitude for the work teachers do every day should never taken for granted. A simple, “Thank you for all you do!” means so much to a teacher. They definitely deserve it!