What works in Parent-Teacher Conferences?
I recently read a blog post on Parentella.com on a parent's perspective about what's working in parent-teacher conferences.
Here's an excerpt: [Read more]
There are plenty of lists of what parents should do in a parent teacher conference, so here’s my list to teachers of what works and what doesn’t for me, as the parent participant in these conferences:
* The actual progress reports. While I realize that teachers are not responsible for the progress report categories and the like, I ask that a teacher understands that there are way too many categories for me to process in the average 15 minutes that we have during a conference. A lot of time is spent just going over the categories. Can the progress reports go home even a day prior to the conference so that I have a chance to digest it all?
* Don’t invite my student. I know this goes against a previous Parentella post, but what I’ve experienced from the times my own child has participated is that the words they take in are not necessarily a full understanding of what’s being said. I had one parent teacher conference in particular where the teacher inappropriately spent a large amount of time talking about her own daughter, and my daughter started exhibiting the behaviors of her teacher’s daughter. It took me a month to get her back on track. However, assuming that a teacher isn’t inappropriate, I want to figure out how to frame my own discussion with my child about her progress, not spend a lot of time re-framing the bits and pieces that my child misinterpreted during the conference.
* Back up your criticisms with ideas. I once had a very frustrating talk with one teacher where I know my child is capable, couldn’t figure out why she wasn’t living up to her abilities, and the only feedback the teacher had was, “she needs to do better.” I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with that. Another time, I asked a teacher for online resources we could use at home to help my daughter’s progress in a certain area, and she had no ideas. It does me no good to simply hear that my daughter’s not doing well at something, but specific information and specific resources can help me to help her.
* Don’t wait for a conference if a child is really struggling. This experience hasn’t happened to me personally, but I’ve heard from many parents who were truly shocked when they came into the conference and learned their child was in danger of failing. Conferences should be about a student’s overall progress, but if there has been no progress in a certain area, parents should be notified sooner rather than later.
* It’s not your personal time. I always try to come in with empathy, and I realize that parent-teacher conference time is busy for the teachers, but it is part of the job. I don’t want to hear the teacher complain that there’s no time, or how tired they are. This is our limited time to talk about what’s going well and where my child isn’t doing so well. Let’s stick to the subject at hand.
* Think before-hand about how my child’s strengths can help their weaknesses. To me, the time we spend talking about what my daughter does well is not wasted. Sometimes, we can take some of those good skills and use them to guide her in other subjects. A visual learner, for example, could use those visualizations to help understand a mathematic equation. Someone who is quick to memorize lyrics could be taught to use those memorization skills in other areas.
* Never appear to have written my child off. My 9-year-old is particularly adept at empathy. She can tell when someone is rooting for her, and when someone isn’t. She’s apt to stop trying if she thinks she’s never going to be able to do it. I’m apt to think less of a teacher if they appear to not believe in my child’s ability. I’m sure there are many labels someone can put on me as a parent for feeling that way, but I do believe that given the right tools, any child is capable. Please go into every conference prepared to offer guidance in how all of our children can do their very best.
What does everyone else think? What are your do's and don'ts with parent-teacher conferences?