Making Parent Conferences Work For Your Child

Adapted from “Making the Conference Work for You”, CAPTA.org

During the Conference

Establish rapport – As an icebreaker, take notice of something that reflects well upon the teacher. For example, thank the teacher for having made thoughtful notes on your child’s homework or for the special attention in helping your child learn to multiply.

Ask questions – Questions you ask during the conference can help you express your hopes for the student’s success in class and for the teacher. It’s a good idea to ask the important questions first, in case time runs out. The teacher’s answers should help you both work together to help your child.

If your child receives special services (e.g., gifted and talented programs, speech or occupational therapy), be sure to ask about the frequency of services and your child’s progress.

Address problems – Parent-teacher conferences are a good time to discuss any difficulties (either academic or behavioral) a child might be having at school. When problems arise, parents will want to

  • Avoid angry or apologetic reactions. Instead, ask for examples.
  • Ask what is being done about the problem and what strategies seem to help at school.
  • Develop an action plan that may include steps that parents can take at home and steps the teacher will take when the problem comes up at school.
  • Schedule a follow-up conference and decide on the best way to stay in touch (phone, e-mail, or letters sent to the home).

Develop an action plan – If the student needs help with a behavioral or an academic issue, you and the teacher should agree on specific plans—that you both will work on—to help your child do better. Be sure you understand what the teacher suggests. If it’s not clear, ask him or her to explain. Set up a way to check on your child’s progress. You and the teacher can decide how best to stay in touch, such as through phone calls, notes, or additional meetings.

Ending the conference – End the conference by reviewing what you discussed and restating your action plan. This is also a good time to set up your next meeting.

After the Conference – Talking to your child.

When discussing the conference with the child afterward, stress the good things that were covered and be direct about problems that were identified. If an action plan is in place, explain to the child what was arranged.

When an action plan is in place, consider the following: Watch your child’s behavior and check on classwork and homework. Ask how the student feels about schoolwork. Stay in touch with the teacher to discuss your child’s progress. Express appreciation as progress is made.

A good way to promote a continuing relationship with the teacher is to say “thank-you” with a note or a telephone call. Continuing to keep in touch with the teacher, even if things are going well, can play an important role in helping the child do better in school.

When a child knows parents and teachers are regularly working together, the child will see that education is a high priority requiring commitment and effort.

Questions to ask during the conference:

  • What subject does my student like most? Least?
  • What can I do to help my student with subjects he finds difficult? How can I help my student study? Prepare for class? Improve his work? A good time to ask these questions is when the teacher gives you samples of your son’s or daughter’s work.
  • Is my student trying as hard as he can?
  • Does my student participate in class discussions and activities?
  • Is my student in different classes or groups for different subjects? Which ones? How are the groups determined?
  • How well does my student get along with others?
  • Has my student missed classes?
  • Have you noticed changes in the way my student acts? For example, have you noticed squinting, tiredness, or moodiness that might be a sign of physical or other problems?
  • How are you measuring my student’s progress? Through tests? Portfolios? Class participation? Projects?
  • What kinds of tests do you give? What do the tests show about my student’s progress? How does my student handle taking tests?
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