Parent-teacher conferences are a great way to build a partnership with your child’s teacher. Open and honest conversations can help you and the teacher connect what’s happening at school with what’s happening at home.
But these conferences can be challenging for several reasons. Time may be limited. You and your child’s teacher may have a lot of topics you want to cover. Plus you may feel unsure about what to bring up—or not bring up—in this meeting.
We asked our Understood for Educators Teacher Fellows to weigh in on what they wish parents would ask and share in parent-teacher conferences. Some of them are parents or caregivers of kids who learn and think differently too, so they’ve been in your shoes.
There were a few themes carrying through many of these tips: sharing what’s working (and not working) at home, asking how you can be helpful, and being open about your child’s likes and dislikes.
“As a teacher, I always want the parents to give me honest feedback about the child’s perception of their school experience. It opens the door to have authentic discussions about progress socially, emotionally and academically.” —Ashlee Upp, third-grade general education teacher
“It’s best to provide the teacher with a vision of what life looks like at home, so they can understand the frustrations you may be experiencing as a parent. Teachers may see a very different child in the classroom than you see at home.” —Michelle Capriotti, high school special education teacher
“I wish parents asked teachers, ‘What is something that I can do at home to reinforce what my child is learning in class socially and academically?’” —Shaquala Butler, fourth-grade general education teacher
“Come prepared to share what works for you and your child at home. Parents and teachers are partners, and I love to reinforce systems they have at home. I also have parents reinforce systems I use in school. Kids respond well when parents and teachers use the same language, incentives and organization.” —Pauli Evanson, second-grade special education teacher
“I wish parents would ask me, ‘Is my child grasping the concepts and skills needed to be successful?’ instead of, ‘Why is my child not making a certain grade?’ Also, ‘How can we work together to ensure my child is doing quality work away from school?’ And, ‘How can I support you in the classroom?’” —Eric Crouch, fifth-grade general education teacher
“I wish parents would ask, ‘What can the school do to support my child and the family? Are there intervention programs to support my child? If not, why?’ Asking about the curriculum and the content objectives can demystify school and expectations.” —Christina Armas, kindergarten and first-grade English as a New Language teacher
“I’d encourage parents to ask me what sparks joy for their child in my classroom. And I’d like them to share what sparks joy for their child at home. Children do their best learning when they are motivated and genuinely excited.” —Jessica Cisneros, kindergarten general education teacher