The essential foundation of school-community cooperation has always been-and always will be- the parent-school partnership. Nobody knows your child as well as you do. This is why taking part in parent-teacher conferences is one of the most important ways you can help your child succeed in school.
Conferences help you monitor your child’s progress at school. They help you nip problems in the bud. They provide an opportunity to make plans for students with special needs. They help parents truly get acquainted with the school and the teacher.
Similarly, conferences help teachers understand the whole child and develop individualized instruction. The teacher becomes better able to suggest effective ways parents can help students. In short, the parent and the teacher form a trust-building partnership. The resulting home-school alliance helps the child build self-esteem and learn to value doing well in school.
Here are some tips on how to make the most of your conferences with your teacher:
- Plan the time. For working parents and those with young children it can be tough to find time for conferences. One answer might lie in using vacation time. Or perhaps your employer will let you make up the time or allow a coworker to cover for you. If necessary, swap babysitting favors with a friend. If you totally run out of possibilities and have absolutely no alternative, arrange a telephone conference.
- Both parents should attend, or at least take turns attending, so the child feels the support of both parents. Remarried parents might invite their new spouses to help foster a blended family unity. It is helpful if noncustodial or shared parents participate, especially if the child spends time in both homes. If necessary, the school will hold two separate conferences.
- Involve your child. Ask your child if he or she wants you to discuss something special at the meeting. Find out what your child likes and dislikes most about school, what is easy and what is hard, and how school could be better. (And remember to share the results of the meeting, good and bad, with your child.)
- Make a list of questions. jot down matters you want to ask the teacher about: How does your child get along with other students? Participate in class? Follow rules? What are his or her strengths and weaknesses? Is progress taking place, and is it steady? Does the teacher work with the child in special ways? How can you help?
- Share information. Tell the teacher about any major events at home (positive or negative), such as a new baby…what seems to be the development of a medical condition…the death of a relative or favorite pet…separation or divorce or remarriage…a job change…a grandparent or step-siblings moving into the home…money problems. The teacher will treat the information confidentially and will be able to respond appropriately to your child when these events have an impact at school-which they usually do!
- Take a cooperative attitude. Your child benefits from knowing his teacher and parents are working together to help him succeed. If your child has a serious problem at school (academic or social), it is imperative to participate in the meeting in a calm manner. If tempers flare, neither you nor the teacher can concentrate on developing a joint plan of action to solve your child’s problems. If the problems are not resolved to your satisfaction, you may want to schedule a follow-up meeting with staff specialists or the principal.
- Impromptu conferences can help, too. Make appointments for intermittent meetings if a problem suddenly surfaces. A teacher may also request an intermediate visit. Many problems can be solved if they are addressed immediately. Impromptu meetings, coupled with regular grading-period visits, help teacher, parent, and student stay on the right track.