It seems like only yesterday school was out for summer. Now we’re sending our kids back to the classroom and preparing to meet a new set of teachers.
Establishing a positive parent-teacher relationship can be critical to a successful school year. Proactively nurturing this relationship is an investment in your child’s education and their ability to maximize their full potential.
As an educator and a parent, I believe parent-teacher conferences can be an effective tool for building a bridge between the family and the school. However, parent-teacher conferences can sometimes be tough to navigate, too brief to discuss anything of substance, or perhaps only called when a conflict arises.
Here are some tips to help you make the most of one-on-one time with teachers:
Like your kids, make sure you do your homework. Prior to your meeting, come up with a list of clearly defined goals and questions.
The best place to start is with your child. Ask them what subjects they enjoy the most, what they find easy and difficult about school, and their feelings on their teachers so far. This feedback will help inform your discussion and demonstrate that you are tuned into your child’s thoughts and experiences.
The questions you prepare for the teacher may vary depending on your child’s specific needs, but some sample questions could include:
- What strengths does my child demonstrate?
- In what areas does he/she need additional support?
- When does my child seem most engaged?
- Is my child meeting the expectations for this grade level?
- What are some resources to improve their performance or to challenge them if they’re exceeding expectations?
- What can we do at home to support what you’re doing in the classroom?
- Does my child socialize well?
Let your guard down
Teachers like to use this one-on-one time to get to know about your family. While sharing personal information may seem uncomfortable, what they learn could help them teach your child more effectively.
If your family is experiencing challenges that may contribute to poor performance or disengagement in the classroom, share as much information with the teacher as you are comfortable. Teachers appreciate having that context so they can offer appropriate support.
Give the teacher some insight into your child’s personality traits. Let the teacher know if he/she is outgoing or shy, artistic or logical, inquisitive or passive, high-energy or quiet. Share strategies you use at home to nurture these traits and what challenges you sometimes face.
It’s also important to share your child’s interests and hobbies. At Loyola, our mission is to teach the whole child—which includes understanding what they’re passionate about. This knowledge helps teachers build positive relationships with students and personalize lessons to meet the needs of all the learners in the class.
Remember that teachers want the best for your child
Never forget that you and the teacher are on the same team. Like you, educators want your child to thrive and develop socially, academically, and personally.
However, teachers are human and sometimes make mistakes or may say something that your child perceives not as intended. Your child’s well-being and happiness are important, so you may get emotional when approaching a teacher about a negative situation. Don’t be afraid to express your concerns but also listen to the teacher’s perspective to keep the conversation productive. Follow up with the teacher after the conference to maintain the focus on your child’s progress.
Say thank you!
Last, but not least, thank the teacher. After your meeting, follow up with an email or handwritten letter saying you appreciated their insight. Those notes will go a long way in establishing an effective teacher-parent partnership.
Stacy Williams is a clinical faculty member at the Loyola University Maryland School of Education and a mother of two teenagers.
My daughter recently started kindergarten and my husband and I will be attending our first parent-teacher conferences next month, so I appreciate the tips that you provided in this article. You make a great point that my husband and I should prepare a list of the main questions that we have because this way we can remember them in the conference. Also, it would give me peace of mind to know that we can leave the question sheet with the teacher if we run out time and she can send us an email with her answers.