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Making the most of your parent-teacher conference

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By Kristin Stanberry

At the Conference

Now, you're ready to meet with the teacher. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind during the conference:

  • Let the teacher "lead" the conference. Be friendly, open, and appreciative of the positive things she does for your child.
  • Allow the teacher to express her views, but make sure your priority concerns are addressed. This should be a give-and-take exchange. Hear the teacher out before you make any final requests or suggestions. What she says (new information, insights, or ideas) may alter the approach you take.
  • For concerns you and the teacher agree on, ask how you and she can work together. For example, if your child has trouble staying organized, ask the teacher how she plans to help your child. If she offers to create an assignment sheet with due dates for your child to track homework and projects, you can offer to help your child mark his own calendar at home and coach him to check the calendar daily or weekly.
  • If you haven't already done so, ask the teacher how - and how often - the two of you will stay in touch. Will you make contact daily, weekly, or only as needed? Will you communicate by notes, telephone, email, or in person? Making such arrangements sends the message you're a team player in your child's education. It also helps you and the teacher plan for two-way communication throughout the school year.

At Home After the Conference

Whether or not your child attended the conference with you, it's helpful to sit down with him the same day to discuss what occurred. Depending on his age and maturity level, he may need help understanding what problems - and solutions - were covered. Most kids also want to have a clear idea of what's expected of the teacher, the parent(s), and, most importantly, from him. Be sure to point out his strengths along with his struggles. "Closing the loop" with your child will assure him that you, the school, and he are on the same team!

Kristin Stanberry is a writer and editor specializing in parenting, education, and consumer health/wellness issues. Her areas of expertise include learning disabilities and AD/HD, which she wrote about extensively for Schwab Learning and GreatSchools.


Comments from readers

"Why does the principal attend my conferences? I take this personal and feel that she is there to "protect" the teacher! I am not mean, just straight forward! If the teacher claims my child is "stupid", I have to right to ask WHY she thinks that! And of course, how should I deal with the retaliation to my son after the conference? I am gathering papers and evidence and looking to file a formal complaint, maybe hire a lawyer for my son, too! This is wrong. "
"Hello. Your email came thru at just the right time. My grandson is 12 and is in the 7th grade. Up until last year when he started Middle School, he made very good grades. Last year they slipped down a little but this year is just awful. He has absolutely no interest in school or in the fact that he has bad grades in almost very subject. He doesn't turn in classwork, doesn't complete his homework or if he does it, doesn't turn it in. His test grades are poor. His parents have met with the teachers and talked with the counselor and with the principal and he has been punished and nothing seems to be getting thru to him. How can we help him? "