Parent Teacher Conferences are an excellent opportunity towards the beginning of the school year to get a pulse on how your child is doing in class. With a limited window of time to have this important discussion, how do you make the conversation as productive as possible? We asked this question to our panel of experts – the teachers of Ascension Lutheran School. With decades of combined experience conducting Parent Teacher Conferences, their advice could help you leverage the conference as a tool to put your student on a path to a successful year! We wanted to share their top 6 tips:
1. Be Prompt: Conferences are scheduled back-to-back-to-back. Be respectful of your teacher’s time, and the parents that are scheduled after you, and be there a couple minutes in advance of your start time. Be mindful too, as your time winds down, that the teacher will need to transition on time to the next family.
2. Keep the Conversation Focused: It’s a common temptation to use this time to get to know your teacher and lead with small talk. However, chatting about your summer vacation should be saved for casual encounters on the playground. You want to use every precious moment of the conference to get a deeper understanding of how your student is doing and what their goals should be for the year.
3. Provide Necessary Context: While this isn’t the time or place for small talk, it is an appropriate time to share any family history or a specific situation going on in the life of your child that would help the teacher to better understand your child and where he/she is coming from. If you have a personal situation that may impact your child’s learning or behavior in school, you don’t have to delve into details, but it could be beneficial to make your teacher aware.
4. Encourage Your Child to Participate: At Ascension, students in grades 5-8 are requested to attend conferences. This is a great opportunity to encourage your student to be an active stakeholder in their own academic journey. Invite them to come up with one question for each teacher that will help them to understand how to achieve their goal in that class. As they get older, begin to let them take the lead on bringing up issues or questions and steering the conversation. If your student is younger, or not able to participate in the conference, ask them in advance if they have a question they would like you to ask the teacher. Be sure to close the loop and report back to them what you learn.
5. Ask Meaningful Questions: Plan out questions in advance so that you get the most out of your conversation. Here are some questions that our teachers recommend asking:
• What should I (the parent) do at home to most successfully support my child’s academic and social development?
• What is a reasonable amount of time my child should be doing homework per night for your subject & what should I do if it is going way beyond the expected time?
• Is my child involved in the learning process during class?
• What should my child be doing at home to support what is learned at school?
• How is my child’s attitude/behavior toward the work and teacher?
• What are my child’s strengths and what are their growth areas?
• How is my child interacting with others in class and on the playground?
• Is my child giving their best effort?
• Is my child confident about school?
• In a group setting, what role does my child take on?
• Ask your teacher how they are doing this school year
6. Remember, the teacher is on your side: Throughout the conference, and the school year, keep in mind that your teacher is on the same team as you – cheering for your child every step of the way! Teachers want to work together with you towards a happy and successful year for your child.