Preparing for parent-teacher conferences

Whether a student is in elementary, middle or secondary school, parent-teacher conferences are important. They offer a chance for parents to ask questions about classes or a student’s progress. It is also a time for parents and teachers to work together as a team to discuss ways both can help the student. If parents do not receive an invitation for a conference, they can request one by contacting a child’s teacher.

Getting ready
Preparations can help lay a foundation with teachers for helping a student.
•Set up an appointment. If a meeting was scheduled by the teacher or school, ask beforehand how long it will be. Let the teacher know up front if more time is needed. If parents need to initiate a meeting with the teacher, let the teacher know the purpose of the meeting. If parents can’t meet with teachers during the school’s scheduled conference day, they can arrange an alternate time and location.
•Talk to the student. Find out what he thinks are his best subjects and what subjects he likes the least. Ask why. Also, ask the student if there is anything he would like his parents to talk about with his teacher. Make sure the child doesn’t worry about the meeting. Help him understand that you and his teacher are meeting to help him. Parents may want to include their student in the conference.
•Make a list. Before going to the meeting, write down the list of topics to talk about with the teacher.

The student’s home life, personality, concerns, habits and hobbies, and other things parents feel the teacher should know about that might help in working with the student, such as religious holidays or a sick relative.

The conference
The questions parents ask during the conference can help them express hopes for the student’s success in class and for the teacher. Ask the important questions first, in case time runs out. The teacher’s answers should help everyone work together to help the student.

Parents may want to ask questions such as:
•What subject does my child seem to like most? Least?
•What can I do to help my child with subjects he finds difficult? How can I help him study? Prepare for class? Improve his work?
•Does he participate in class discussions and activities?
•Is my child in different classes or groups for different subjects? Which ones? How are the groups determined?
•How well does my child get along with others?
•Have you noticed changes in the way my child acts? For example, have you noticed squinting, tiredness, or moodiness that might be a sign of physical or other problems?
•How are you measuring my child’s progress? Through homework assignments? Tests? Portfolios? Class participation? Projects?
•What kinds of tests do you give? What do the tests show about my child’s progress? How does my child handle taking tests?
•What can I be doing at home with my child to reinforce what you’re teaching in class?
•How can we work together to help my child?
Parents should expect the teacher to show samples of a student’s work. The teacher should also suggest ways in which parents and the teacher can work together to help the student do better in school.
(Courtesy of Ramstein Intermediate School)