Friday, July 29, 2011

Making The Most of the Parent Teacher Conference

You and your child’s school have something in common: both of you want your child to learn and do well. Parent Teacher Conferences are an important component of the ongoing dialogue between families and schools, so when talking with your child’s teacher, remember that both of you have valuable information to share, and both of you can learn something new to help your child. The Parent Teacher Conference is a two-way conversation and good outcomes are achieved when both parents and teachers talk and listen. There should be an emphasis on learning and a focus on both how well the child is doing in school, as well as how your child can do better. Opportunities and challenges should also be discussed.

Parent Teacher Conferences typically occur before a child's first marking period, when they receive their report cards. That means the first one will happen just before Thanksgiving, but parents do not have to wait until then. They can ask teachers for a conference at any time. They can also make the request in writing, if they wish to document it.

Cassandra Archie, Co-Director of the Metropolitan Parent Center suggests that the first Parent Teacher Conference be scheduled at the end of September, and below are some questions that parents should ask teachers to understand if their child is starting out properly.

Talk to your child’s teacher about:
  • Progress – how is your child doing.  Is my child performing at grade level? What do you see as his/her strengths?  How could he or she improve?
  • Assignments and assessments. Ask to see examples of your child’s work. Ask how the teacher gives grades.
  • Your thoughts about your child. Tell the teacher what your child is good at. Explain what your child needs.
  • Support learning at home. Ask what you can do at home to support your child’s learning.
  • Support learning at school. Ask how the teacher will both challenge and support your child when they need it.
After the parent teacher conference, Ms. Archie has some additional recommendations:
  • Make a plan  - Write down the things you and your teacher will each do to support your child.  Make plans to check in with the teacher in the coming months.
  • Schedule another time talk – There are many ways to communicate, in-person, by phone, notes, email. Be sure to schedule a time to talk.
  • Talk to your child.  If appropriate talk with your child, don’t forget to include him or her.

For more info visit The Harvard Family Research Project – Parent Teacher Conferences: A Tip Sheet for Parents

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