Around the country, parents are signing up for parent-teacher conferences. By the time our kids are older, we know what to expect; either Johnnie needs to speak up more in class, or Janie needs to focus. If our child needs tutoring, he’s probably already getting it.
For parents with young children, however, this can be a nerve-wracking experience. We do not know what to expect, which questions are okay to ask, or even what we should learn from our initial meeting with our child’s teacher.
When teachers I know worry about talking to parents about a child, I always tell them that all we really want to know is that you love our little boy and that our little girl is happy at school.
I tell them to have one funny, inspiring, cute story about our child and tell that first. Then, if there is anything important or unpleasant to communicate, we will hear it because you just showed us, through that story, that you know our child and that our child makes you laugh or think. In our parent – teacher conference, just show us that you love him.
But what to advise parents with young children heading into their first parent-teacher conference in the coming weeks?
Many walk into the classroom, wondering if he has friends, if the teacher likes her, where he fits in academically with his classmates, and whether, when the time comes after 20 minutes, we can get up out of those tiny chairs.
So, with another round of parent-teacher conferences hitting us all in the next few weeks, I thought I would share my thoughts, as a mom with three boys – all with very different needs and personalities:
- Ask which children in the class make yours comfortable, inspire them to try harder, and keep them laughing. That will help you encourage friendships that make them happy.
- If you want to know where your child stands academically, ask. The teacher may have a policy of not giving out that information unless needed, but many will tell you.
- If the teacher says that your child needs to focus or quiet down or fidget less, ask what strategies he has tried, and suggest what works at home. Or if you struggle with the same at home, try to come up with a team plan.
- If the teacher says that your child should speak up more, ask what strategies she has tried and suggest ideas that may make your son more comfortable about raising his hand.
- If the teacher says “what a wonderful child” “or “everything is going so well,” be happy. Many parents worry that such comments mean their child is fading into the background. They wish they had something to talk about with the other parents, who come out of their conference with a list of items to address, drama and more. You do not want drama. Enjoy the moment.
- Ask if, based on your child’s strengths or weaknesses in the classroom, the teacher has ideas for appropriate extra-curricular activities or projects you can do at home. Teachers have so many creative ideas, and you can enhance your child’s learning and enthusiasm about a subject that already excites them.
- If needed, be prepared to bring up a challenge your child is experiencing, even if the teacher does not. This is your chance to help her get to know him better, so that she can best address his personality, needs, learning style, sensitivities, and more. And do not worry. As soon as the school year began a few weeks ago, this teacher became your teammate. She is on your side.
- Remember, the parent-teacher conference is a team meeting. You both have information to share about your child that will help her thrive in school. Nothing to worry about.
- Most teachers do not sit all day in those little tiny chairs for the same reason you do not. They get it.
Every parent will have at least one uncomfortable parent-teacher conference over the years our children are in school. Most of the time, however, we should come away feeling good about the education our child is receiving. And the advice of parents with older children helps.