Each year, like clockwork, the parent-teacher conference notice arrives. I’m pretty sure I give an audible sigh when receiving one of these notices. But after the initial thoughts of “here we go again,” I usually follow up with “let’s do this!”
There’s always so much that I, as the parent, want to discuss about my child with his teacher, especially as it relates to his . However, I know the way to get the most out of this meeting is to discuss the upcoming conversation with my child.
Here’s how I approach teacher conferences with my child to make sure I leave the conference with valuable feedback from his teachers.
1. I talk to my child before the conference.
This is important for two reasons. First, it helps ensure that my child and I are on the same page about his performance in school. And second, it gives my child a chance to share any concerns he may not feel comfortable sharing with his teacher.
Once I know about any concerns to discuss at the conference, I talk to my child about what he thinks his strengths and weaknesses are. This is a great opportunity for me to guide his self-awareness and identify areas of improvement. It also allows me to praise him for his successes, which helps boost confidence and encourage effort.
Next, I ask my child what he’d like me to say to his teacher. This is important because it gives my child a voice in the conversation (whether he’s present or not) and helps him feel like he’s part of the process.
Last, I talk to my child about what he thinks his teacher will say to me. This is another opportunity for self-reflection and can help identify any areas of concern.
2. I involve my child in the meeting, when appropriate.
First, I get clarity on whether my child is allowed to attend the conference. It’s not always the case.
If he’s allowed to join, I consider what he might take away from being in the meeting. The goal is to make sure he knows the meeting isn’t just for grown-ups — that he has a vested interest in what’s being discussed and why. This way, he’ll be more likely to take ownership of his education, which is ultimately what we want. I’m teaching my child that his education is important and a priority for me.
I also make sure my child is only present during the times that are relevant to his awareness level. If there are sensitive topics, his teacher and I decide to excuse him until we can talk about them later.
3. I go over the results of the meeting with my child.
My child should understand how we ended the parent-teacher conference — the good, the bad, and the beautiful. I do this in a way that resonates with him. For example, I ask him “you know how” questions that relate to a real-life experience. I also offer opportunities for him to process the information and ask as many follow-up questions as he needs.
It’s so important for me to give complete clarity and confirmation to my child after a conference, so he can self-advocate. If he needs help, he’ll know how to ask and what to ask for. If things are going great, he’ll know to keep up the good work.
No matter how many times I prepare for and attend a parent-teacher conference, there’s always the feeling of a thousand butterflies in my stomach. After getting over the initial breath-holding, I remind myself that I’ve come prepared — including with my son’s input.
By being proactive and involving my child in the process — whether he’s present at the meeting or not — I can set the tone for a productive meeting that everyone can feel good about.
Get more tips from the author about parent-teacher conferences on a podcast episode of In It.
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About the author
About the author
DeJunne’ Clark Jackson, MA, MAT, MEd, CALT, LDT is the president of The Center for Literacy & Learning, a Louisiana-based 501c(3) nonprofit organization focused on literacy, birth through life.