Students are more successful when families are engaged in their achievement and partner with the school in the learning process, according to the Harvard Family Research Project. To have a successful parent-teacher conference, be well prepared and approach the meeting with positive expectations. What the student has said about the teacher may be far from reality, so come with an open mind.
Talk as well as listen; your objective is for your child to succeed. Arriving on time shows the teacher you respect her time. Be prepared, friendly and tolerant so that the central premise of the meeting is the best interest of the child. Preconceived ideas can lead to difficulty from the beginning of the conference, so set them aside and expect to have an affable and frank conversation. Find something about which you can compliment the teacher, and make a sincere attempt to express your appreciation for her efforts on your child's behalf.
Preparing a list of probing questions helps you gain insight into what you can do to help with homework, behavior or study habits. If appropriate, volunteer information that may help the teacher understand your child better and talk about how you might keep track of your child's progress. Developing an action plan with the teacher shows you want to work collaboratively, not against her. Offer suggestions on the best, and most convenient, way to stay in touch, such as weekly progress reports, phone calls or online checks -- if the school has that capability.
Be an advocate for your child. Show support by letting the teacher know you are willing to do whatever is necessary at home to ensure his success at school, but don't be afraid to speak up about things that you know aren't working in the classroom. The teacher also values your child and wants him to succeed, but don't expect her to be totally responsible for his education. Continued communication with the teacher shows your child that you value his education and that you are committed to his success.
Sharing observations with the teacher and asking specific questions about your child's strengths, weaknesses, work habits, social skills displayed in the classroom and relationship with classmates helps you get a better picture of his daily school life. Provide information that might help the teacher help your child, such as any special needs or problems that should be addressed. If the child is struggling in any area, ask for an assessment of his abilities and commit to doing whatever is necessary to help him improve. Stay calm, and avoid hostile confrontations if the teacher makes less-than-stellar comments about your child; instead, make inquiries about appropriate strategies that you can employ to achieve the desired results.
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