By the time your child is in high school, you probably consider yourself a pro at parent-teacher conferences. Or maybe you’ve lost interest in them.
However, it’s good to stay vigilant about checking in, even if your child isn’t having problems. By requesting a conference, you’re showing the teacher that you care about your child’s growth and future beyond school.
“When you are a partner with the school, it is a beautiful thing,” said Doris Saffran, community education specialist for the School District of Palm Beach County.
Before the conference, talk to your child about how she’s doing. Look at the work she’s done so far. Ask her whether certain classes are causing her to struggle.
Don’t forget that parent-teacher conferences are chances for parents to hear from teachers how their child is performing in the classroom, as well as opportunities for parents to air any concerns, says Catherine Tedesco, the school district’s literacy manager for elementary education.
Conferences should end on a happy note and a plan of action. However, if you and the teacher can’t agree on what to do for your child, you may need to meet with the principal.
While teachers are the experts on learning, they should offer you choices. If your child needs additional help, the teacher may bring in a team to work on an individualized education plan (IEP) for the school year.
In high school, things change – a lot. Even though many parents stop attending conferences, it’s important to stay in touch and on top of problems.
Each one of your child’s teachers in their specialty should be able to tell you exactly how your child is performing. But you also will be spending less time with each teacher at a scheduled parent-teacher night. So it’s even more important to be ready with one or two key questions for each teacher.
There’s also even more homework now, and this is when students might begin struggling to keep up the pace. You should ask if your child is turning in assignments on time. If he’s not, ask for guidance in helping him manage his time.
You may also want to know how much time your child should spend on homework for each subject. Find out if extracurricular activities are getting in the way of getting everything done. And while you're there, you may want to know what the teachers think about your child's future academic or career interests.
Other discussion points:
• Share family events with the teacher. A new baby, a divorce or a death can impact your child’s behavior. Knowing these things gives the teacher insight.
• Tell the teacher if you speak a different language at home.If your English is not strong, the teacher can arrange for a translator to join your conference.
• Write down a plan with the teacher, including what you can do to help your child learn.
• Schedule an appointment in a few weeks to follow up on your plan.
• Afterward, sit down with your child about the conference. Discuss how you will help and ask for suggestions.
• Doris Saffran, community education specialist, School District of Palm Beach County
• Catherine Tedesco, literacy manager of elementary education, School District of Palm Beach County