With fall, the first report cards and parent-teacher conferences of the academic year arrive. Thus, we’re reviving a topic from last autumn.

Every year there is more research documenting the connection between academic achievement and parental involvement in schools. Our charter school firmly believes parent engagement in education is vital to the academic success of every student, and encourages parents to be active participants in their student’s academic growth. We all—parents, students, teachers, staff, and administration—play important roles in the achievement of a shared goal: character building and academic achievement.

Parent-teacher conferences offer a rare chance for a two-way conversation regarding a student between the people who spend the most time with him/her—the teacher and the parent/guardian.

So, here are some suggestions to help you make the most of this conversation.

Be Positive

  1. Teachers care! They want your child to succeed, to enjoy school, and to meet and, hopefully, exceed his potential.
  2. Remember that teachers are professionals, and that treating them as such sets a positive example for your child.
  3. A little kindness can go a long way. Try to be a good listener and consider what your child’s teacher has to say.
  4. Teachers follow schedules (just like the rest of us) and often their schedules do not have the same flexibility as those of other professionals. They’ll work with your schedule as much as possible to arrange meetings that work for everyone.

Be Prepared

Teachers plan for parent-teacher conferences, but even more can be gleaned from these meetings if parents do the same. There are several ways to prepare in order to get the most out of these conversations.

  1. Talk to your child about what they are learning, what they like and do not like about school, and how they think they are doing in school.
  2. Review her work from the quarter, including classwork, homework, tests, and other papers and projects. Keeping a file of your child’s work can make this process easier.
  3. Prepare a list of questions, and, more importantly—write them down!
  4. Write down information about your child that you want to share with the teacher. Everyone can forget details from time to time, but, if you take a written list, you are sure to remember. If time runs short, you can give the list to the teacher, who might be able to address the information later via phone or email.
  5. Think of ways to get involved in your child’s education and discuss them with his teacher, who can give you feedback on what he/she thinks will work best in your child’s particular situation.
  6. Speak to others about your child’s strengths and weaknesses, be they instructors, family members, or other school staff. This can give a helpful outsider’s perspective on your child.

Preparation can make a significant difference in conferences—for parents and teachers!

Be Patient

Teacher have a lot of students and parents to meet with. A little patience and understanding on both sides can make for an overall positive experience for all.

  1. Arrive on time, or early, to your meeting.
  2. Stay calm and listen to what the teacher has to say. Ask questions to understand all sides of a situation.
  3. Stay on track, but if the teacher mentions something you are not certain about, ask for clarification when it is brought up, so you can both be on the same page.
  4. Make sure to find out the communication protocol before you leave. What is the best method of communication for both of you: email, phone, etc.?

Most conferences are short, 15-30 minutes. Try to make the most of the time allotted. This is where preparation beforehand can come in handy. You won’t be scrambling for questions or topics, and the conversation will be more effective for understanding and assisting your child with their learning goals.

Follow Up

What happens after the parent-teacher conference? Most articles on the subject offer a few consistent suggestions.

  • Share the information with your child. They are part of the process, too, even if they were not at the meeting. Help them to have an active voice in their own education. Stressing the positive comments can help them stay encouraged and confident.
  • Follow through with goals discussed. Whether you make an action plan to check your child’s agenda and homework nightly, or you simply wanted to keep in touch more regularly about his or her performance in class, follow through.
  • Participate in school activities, both extracurricular and academic. This can help convey the importance of education to your child as well as showing them that they are a priority.

Parents and teachers both play hugely important roles in the education of children. Putting forth the effort to work in collaboration with your child’s teacher can have a powerful impact on their school performance overall—in terms of academic achievement, in-school behavior, and character growth.

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