“Children are the Priority. Change is the Reality. Collaboration is the Strategy.” – Judith Billings, former Washington State Superintendent for Public Instruction.
Parent-teacher conferences can be stressful, which is why planning ahead can make the most out of your brief one-on-one face time with your child’s teacher. The relationship formed with a child’s family is often impacted by how well the parent-teacher conference is conducted and how productive the conference is in helping your child succeed. With that in mind, we consulted with several of our Stratford School experts to help develop tips to ensure a successful parent-teacher conference.
Do Your Homework
Preparation is vital to conducting a successful parent-teacher conference. Taking time to make note of what you want to discuss in the conference is paramount. According to Loren Gustafson, math and history teacher at Stratford Middle School in San Jose, “Understand that our time is limited. When you come with questions already prepared that shows you have thought about the purpose of the conference. Preparing questions beforehand allows us to focus on specifics rather than simply exchanging pleasantries without a specific goal in mind.”
Additional advice comes from Mary “Kate” Kiely, second grade teacher at Stratford’s Sunnyvale campus: “I love when parents bring questions because it shows that we are building a partnership for their child’s education and also helps the meeting feel comfortable. As teachers, we can speak to the areas of growth we see and often they are similar or related to challenges parents might be seeing at home. It allows us to strengthen our relationship with their child and celebrate their achievements.”
Accentuate the Positive with a Cooperative Team Effort
Parents are often anxious about what teachers will say regarding their child, so a conference should be started with positive comments according to Emily Ersboll, first grade teacher at Stratford’s Online Academy (Grades K-5). “Parent-teacher conferences are especially important to create connections between a student’s home and school life. Parents should come prepared with observations from their point of view at home,” she says. “Think about how they handle homework, how they interact with other kids (during playdates, extracurricular activities, etc.), how the child reacts when their behavior is redirected at home. These can be clues as to how the child behaves at school, too. If you feel concerned about behaviors at home, they may be having the same issues at school and it would be beneficial to work with your child’s teacher to come up with a plan to support your child together.”
Gustafson adds, “Your child is the light of your life, and many times they are perfect in your eyes. Yet as a teacher, I am looking through the lens of academic growth and sometimes we may see a different side of your child. Our expectations in this context may just be different than yours.”
Be Prepared to Discuss Your Child’s Strengths, Behavior and Performance
Make use of the conference to identify and discuss the areas that need to be addressed. According to Kiely, “I think it is really important, on both fronts, to come with an open mind. Behaviors in school and at home can be similar or very different. I have had parents shocked when I tell them what a social butterfly their child is because at home it is the opposite or vice versa. It is great though to hear because if, in this case, they are not opening up at home and the parent is asking for tips, you can open the door more to the conversation of what you as a teacher have been implementing in your classroom or suggest other ways to help support your child. This goes for any area of growth. With an open mind, it is important to note that both teacher and parent want what is best for your child.”
This is further emphasized by Ersboll, who says, “Come to the meeting with an open and honest mind. We are both here because we care about your child and want what is best for them. It makes it easier for teachers if we can have the whole picture of who your child is and what we can do to accommodate the best support for your child. “
Plan a Follow-up Conference
Parent-teacher conferences are most effective if they’re not a one-off event and instead are part of the larger relationship with parents. As Gustafson comments, “Parents looking for long-term academic and personal growth, and not just aiming for a targeted grade, are a joy to work with every time.”
Adding to that, Ersboll concludes, “Every child is different and teachers are always trying their best to support each individual student’s needs, so if you have suggestions, we’re open, listening and would love to hear them!”
While parent-teacher conferences are not the only forum for parents to get involved in their child’s education, and for teachers to get a greater insight into their students, these interactions are an important first step. So make a game plan to maximize your next parent-teacher conference time, and continue to build this essential relationship that will ultimately have the greatest positive impact on your child’s success now and in the future.If you are interested in learning more about Stratford School, or scheduling a personalized tour, visit us online at www.stratfordschools.com.