How to Prepare for Parent/Teacher Conferences

It is conference week! Here is a great article to help you make the most of your conference. After the conference, don’t forget to share the highs and lows of the conference, that way Within Reach Learning Center can help in those areas. Plus we love to hear success stories! 😀



Why Preparation is so Important

Steps to Take Before the Conference

How to Make the Most of your Conference Time

What to do After the Conference

14 Great Questions to Ask the Teacher

Why preparation is so important

A conference with your child’s teacher is similar to a visit to the doctor’s office. You have a lot that you want to talk about, and a limited amount of time. The better prepared you are going in, the more beneficial the meeting will be for both you and the teacher. Here are some tips for a productive parent/teacher conference, along with a list of good questions for you to ask the teacher.

Steps to take before the conference

Schedule your appointment early
If you’re one of the first parents to sign up for a conference, you’ll be more likely to get a time that works well for you and your partner. If possible, go to the conference together. This lets the teacher know that both of you are involved in your child’s education. And you can compare notes on what you heard and talk over how to deal with the information when you get home.

Ask your child how things are going at school
Several days before the conference ask your child some very specific questions about school. What would he like you to ask the teacher? What does he like best about school? Are there any subjects at school that he’s having trouble with? If he could change anything about school what would it be?

Write down your questions
Once you’re in a meeting with the teacher it may be hard to remember what you wanted to talk about. Jot down your questions beforehand and bring them to the conference.

Ask if you’ll have an opportunity to speak with your child’s other teachers
It’s not unusual for even first graders to have separate teachers for subjects such as art or computers. Often times, your only chance to meet these teachers is open house night. But if you’re particularly interested in talking to one of them about your child’s progress, ask your child’s primary teacher when you make your conference appointment.


How to make the most of your conference time

Stick to talking about your child
Most parent/teacher conferences last only 20 minutes. Don’t use this time to ask questions about basic school policies. That kind of information can usually be found in the school’s handbook, on its Web site, or by calling the office during business hours. This is your chance to get detailed feedback on your child, so grab it while you can. If you have a specific question or issue that doesn’t come up, don’t hesitate to ask. The teacher may be inexperienced or shy, or just not realize that you’re concerned about a particular thing. You know your child better than anyone, so take the initiative.

Establish a rapport with the teacher
The first parent/teacher conference is a chance to get to know the teacher. If you’re both on the same page from the start, your child will get more out of his year in this teacher’s classroom. If you can make a connection early in the year, it will be easier to talk to the teacher in the future about any questions or concerns. To get off on the right foot, first listen to what the teacher has to say, and then base your questions on what is said. You may also want to ask her something about herself, her teaching philosophy, etc. to get a better understanding of who she is.

Try not to get defensive
Every parent wants to hear how wonderful his or her child is — and the teacher should tell you about your child’s special skills and achievements. But one of the main functions of these conferences is to point out areas where your child has room to develop. The teacher may even suggest testing, special classes, or some change in your behavior. Keep in mind that this is a part of all parent-teacher conferences. Fight the urge to argue with the teacher or dismiss her comments. She is not blaming you or your child. The point of this meeting is to get an assessment of how your child is doing in school and to look for ways you can help him do even better. Remind yourself that the teacher is on your side and the two of you have the same goal: to help your child learn all that he can.

Take a notepad and pen
After the meeting is over you may forget some of what you discussed. Jotting things down as you go along will help jog your memory later. Taking notes is also a good way to let the teacher know you’re really paying attention.

Size up the social scene
How well your child fits in socially can affect how well he learns. Ask the teacher how he gets along with the other students. Does he always hang out at recess with the same kids? Who are they? Is he bullying anyone? Is anyone bullying him? Is the teacher concerned about your child’s ability to get along with others and participate in class?

Give the teacher relevant information
Let the teacher know of any changes at home. A new baby, a divorce, or a death in the family can all affect the way your child behaves in the classroom. Resist the urge to talk about his successes outside of school, though. As much fun as it is to tell cute stories, this meeting is about assessing your child’s academic progress.

When speaking to other teachers stick to their area of expertise
If you have the opportunity to meet with your child’s other teachers, limit your questions to their particular subject. Discuss art with the art teacher, reading with the reading expert and so on.

Leave with an action plan
Before you shake hands and say goodbye, find out the best way to follow-up with the teacher. Can you call her? Does she have an email address you can use? You may think of other questions later so find out the best way to ask them. As you end the conference, review any decisions that you’ve made together. And if you feel it’s necessary, request another meeting.

What to do after the conference

Tell your child how it went
Your child will be interested to know that you met his teacher and talked about his school work Your first priority should always be to pass on praise — yours and the teacher’s — before bringing up any issues of concern. You should also follow up on anything your child talked about before the meeting. If your child was concerned about a bully, for instance, tell him that you talked to his teacher and what the two of you decided to do about the problem. Following up like this gives your child a sense that he is heard and that you will take his concerns seriously. Laying the groundwork now will make it easier for him to confide in you as he gets older.

Stay in touch with the teacher
Now that you’ve opened the door to communication, don’t wait for the next conference to talk. Call her in a few weeks and update her on something you talked about during the conference. Just like any budding relationship, this one needs to be nurtured.


14 great questions to ask the teacher

1. Is my child working up to his ability?

2. Is there anything we can do at home to reinforce the skills that you’re working on in the classroom?

3. How much time should my child be spending on his homework?

4. Do you grade homework assignments?

5. What are my child’s strengths and weaknesses?

6. What can we do to help develop our child’s weak areas?

7. What are my child’s academic talents?

8. How are grades determined — are tests weighted the same as homework and in-class assignments?

9. What is my child like in class?

10. What is my child’s learning style?

11. How does my child interact with the other kids?

12. Is there anything that I can share with you about my child and what he’s like at home?

13. What skills will my child be expected to master this year in key subjects like math, English, science, and history?

14. Which, if any, standardized tests will be administered this year?

Within Reach Learning Center offers tutoring in Mission Viejo, Ca.


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