That time of year is here again: semi-annual, parent-teacher conferences! We asked our administrators for their top fifteen recommendations for making the most of this particular fifteen-minute slot of face time. This is what they had to say:
1) Prepare by reviewing reports and school work that has come home. The more you know, the better you’ll be able to utilize the time you have with the teacher.
Providence partners with parents in the God-given responsibility of teaching and training their children. In this role, our community prizes the involvement, interaction, and mutual friendship and encouragement of parents…Even as we expect our teachers to strive for continual improvement, growth, and excellence, so also the school leadership and parents regard them with proper dignity, treasuring them…
2) Think through any areas where you may have incomplete information. Consider: Do I have a good sense of how my child is doing at school academically? Spiritually? Relationally? What perspective might the teacher provide in each of these categories?
3) Ask for your child’s thoughts in advance: “Is there anything confusing or concerning to you that you would like me to talk to your teacher about? What can I tell your teacher you most appreciate about this class?”
4) Make a list of questions to bring to the teacher. The best questions ask either for anecdotes from the classroom or for areas that require growth. For example: “Can you tell me how my child participates in discussion?” or “I noticed my child received a low score in homework, what would be a good way for him/her to grow in that area?”
5) Make a list of any details you feel the teacher needs to know about your child. For example: “We have a busy Wednesday, and my child gets to bed late that evening.” or “My child has struggled with Math in the past, do you see that this year?”
6) Pray. Before coming to the conference, pray for wisdom, pray for insight, pray for the teacher, and pray for the conference to benefit your student’s overall development.
7) Arrive early.
8) Prioritize one or two of your most important issues. You want to come away from the meeting feeling like you made significant progress on one or two major issues, not like you quibbled over a minor distraction.
9) Strive to forge a partnership with your child’s teacher. “How can we work together to make sure he/she gets the reading practice he/she needs?”
10) Use the conference time to develop an action plan. Think active verbs here. “Spend ten minutes a day practicing math flash cards.” “Review Suzie’s homework before packing the bag for the next day.”
11) Take notes on key points. This will enable you to follow up with your student on any action items needing attention.
12) Remember the clock. A quarter hour passes quickly, so make the most of the time you have. The preceding points will help you maximize the time you have with the teacher. Remember the conference is not the only time available, and our teachers are available on other occasions.
13) Schedule a follow up. If you’ve developed a clear action plan, set a deadline for checking in with the teacher. Even a simple email like, “How’s Jimmy doing with ____?” will go a long way toward establishing a strong habit for your child and a good partnership with the teacher.
14) Update your student. Talk with your child about any plans made so that they are aware of what they can do to grow as a student.
15) Maintain perspective. The parent-teacher conference is an opportunity to check in. There should be areas of encouragement and areas needing attention. If there are a number of things to work on, that’s okay. One purpose of the conference is to provide clarity on such areas. However, be sure to remember the good things your student is doing.