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Bright Ideas from our Readers: Successful Conferences

GreatSchools' readers share their tips for productive parent-teacher conferences.

By GreatSchools Staff

Thanks to GreatSchools' readers for sharing their experience and advice for making the most of parent-teacher conferences. Here are some of the highlights:

 

1. Be prepared.

"I found the most important thing I can do is to start keeping a list of questions and issues I would like to discuss," wrote the New York mom of two boys. "I try to do this as soon as possible. Don't wait until the night before the meeting because too many things will escape your mind. I start the conference by letting them know how much I appreciate the time they are giving up to meet with us and that I have brought a list of questions, just to be sure I don't forget anything. This helps them realize that I am serious about my child's time at school, and that I respect their time as an individual."

 

2. Take your child with you.

One mom said, "When I have a parent teacher conference coming up I sit down with my son and we discuss each class in detail. Then my son goes to the conference with me, and I get him to tell the teacher what he told me. That way he communicates any problems he has directly to the teacher," wrote one mom. "I have found this to be more effective than me telling the teacher what he said. Any problems can be solved right then and not during class time."

The mom of a grown daughter in California agrees that a parent-teacher conference should have the student present. "This way you don't have 'he said, she said.' You can confront the problems together and try to resolve them together. I found most problems were misunderstandings or a case of starting off on the wrong foot, and after we all got on the same page things really went well. I feel that when teachers know parents are involved and students know there is communication between them, everyone performs a little better."

 

3. Leave plenty of time.

Noting that parent-teacher conferences tend to run over their allotted times, one mom offered these tips:

 

  • Call your child's school and schedule conferences as soon as they are announced.
  • Schedule extra time for yourself in case your conferences run overtime.
  • Write down a list of all your questions for your child's team or teacher and take it with you.
  • Try to stay calm and be polite.
  • File all reports regarding your child's progress in a notebook for the school year. This reduces the possibility of surprises when report cards arrive!

4. Communicate at other times, too.

A Pennsylvania mom wrote, "Parent-Teacher conferences are a good time to speak one-on-one with the teachers about your child's performance, but as a parent I find that this alone is not very beneficial. I also randomly telephone or email teachers so that if there is an issue it can be discussed and resolved before it gets too out of hand. Connecting by phone is easier than scheduling an in-person meeting. Also, if your child knows you will randomly check on her, she will be more inclined to try hard at school."

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

04/15/2011:
"There are two types of school conferences and that should be understood. One is the routine conference that all parents may be invited to usually midway during the first marking period. Some schools mandate these kind of conferences and teachers are told to schedule parents 15 minutes apart - that' s not much time and these mandated conferences are not much of an opportunity for any real discussion or dialogue. The other kind of school conference is the special conference that has been requested either by the parents or the teacher/school. Who has requested the conference is of Great Importance in how the conference will be conducted. If parents request such a conference, they should absolutely know beforehand what it is they want to achieve and parents should be careful to strike the right note at any conference they've requested if they want the conference to have positive outcome. The last kind of conference is that which the school requests of the parent and books could be written as to what is the correct and productive stance a parent should assume at this kind of conference. Schools only request this kind of conference when they feel something is wrong and school employees in attendance at such conferences are often nervous and uncomfortable. Parents can go a long way at these conferences simply by being pleasant and helping everyone to feel more comfortable."
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