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Making the most of teacher meetings

How to have a successful parent-teacher conference.

By GreatSchools Staff

You can get a lot of information about your child’s progress during the parent-teacher conference, which usually takes place twice a year. To make the most of your meeting with the teacher, here are some tips for what to do before, during, and after the conference.

Before the conference

  1. Make an appointment. Usually, the teacher will let you know when parent-teacher conferences are coming up and ask you to sign up for a time to meet. Most schools have conferences twice a year, although you can schedule meetings throughout the year if problems come up.
  2. Ask your child about school. Before meeting with the teacher, find out what your child likes about school and what gives her trouble. The more information you have going into the meeting, the better chance you’ll have a successful one.
  3. Make a list. Write down a few important things to ask or share with the teacher — anything that will give the teacher more information about what your child likes or dislikes about school. For example: "My child says she loves doing artwork the best," "I feel like my child isn’t learning to read as fast as she should," or "My child says she feels lonely during recess."

During the conference

  1. Listen carefully. This is your chance to find out how your child is doing. So make an effort to listen to what the teacher is telling you about your child — whether it’s positive or negative — and try to understand the teacher's point of view.
  2. Ask questions. If you feel you don’t have a good idea of how your child is doing in school — with schoolwork and friends (social skills are as important as academic ones in kindergarten!) — be sure to ask the teacher plenty of questions. Here are some sample questions that might give you a good sense of your child’s strengths and challenges at school:

Questions about your child’s schoolwork:

  • Does my child take part in class activities?
  • Is my child paying attention?
  • How is my child doing in reading? In math?
  • Are there areas where my child needs extra help?
  • How can you help my child in areas that are hard for her?
  • What activities can I do at home to help?

Questions about your child’s social life:

  • Does my child get along with the other kids?
  • Is my child making friends? Who are they?
  • How can I help my child make more friends?
  • Is my child learning to share?
  • Does my child listen to other kids and work in a team?

After the conference

  1. Talk with your child. Tell your child a little about what you and the teacher talked about. Focus on the positive. If there are problems, don’t shame or blame your child. Instead, talk about solutions you and the teacher came up with.
  2. Try activities at home. The teacher may suggest things you can do with your child at home to help her improve her learning or social skills — like writing letters or practicing sharing. Don’t feel like you have to do everything at once (both of you will feel overwhelmed). Just a few minutes a day helping your child with challenges at school will go a long way.
  3. Follow up with the teacher. If you and the teacher talked about a specific problem, follow up with her in a week or two to see if there’s been any improvement.

Comments from readers

"Es un t ema sumamente interesante y considero que tanto los padres como los profesores deben ponerlo en practica para que logremos unos buenos estudiantes en el presente y excelentes ciudadanos en el futuro "
"I used this article to get the conversation going w/my daughter's teacher when we got her 1st marking period report card. I think the teacher was amazed that i was a parent that actually cared. I always ask questions but got a few more from the article. It helped us tremendously.. We all know that not every child will come home and say what they have a problem with if we don't ask.. "
"hello, I am a teacher and i really wish parents acted like that whith coherent questions and a real concern of the situations whatever they were. this is a theoretical and perfect discussion, everybody for the child. things are different."
"This is great information and insight! After getting full custody of my 9 year old son this last year i have been learning right along side of him. dealing with the schools dead on and being curious enough to ask about his days in class and on the yard have really helped me to understand his likes and dislikes. Very good suggestions given here. Working the long hours that I do, parent - teacher conferences are something that i look forward to. "
"I will never forget when my son's 6th grade teacher during parent night had the nerve to say if your son/daughter doesn't remember what the homework assignment was, 'Its not my problem', that they should of asked, well how do you ask when you have over 30 plus students in class and the student raises their hand to repeat, or a teacher not using a black board any longer, just the tripod screen. Then you have teachers who are willing to stay after school and assist, and communicate by e-mail. Now teachers in our school post a Parent Portal to see what homework is given, so parents know what is going on. There are good teachers and bad, and those need to be addressed. Seems how my son is doing much better in school at 7th grade compared to that teacher who says, Its not my problem, i have too many things to do."
"Great information. We all need to work together to make school life an educationly uplifting experience. "
"Sometimes we already know what areas are challenging for our kids & we know the solution maybe we can suggest the same in parents meeting to teracher. That will help teacher to understand & guilde our child in a effective way. eg. My neighbours daughter is a visual learner & her mom explain to the teacher that small pictures or sketches help her to undertsand some stuffs."