While it may seem difficult to hold parent-teacher conferences when your child's in middle school and has four or five academic subject areas, it's still vitally important to stay in touch.
“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.
Middle school is a time of great transition for your child. So the more informed you are about what's going on in the classroom, the more you can support your child's learning.
If you're on a tight schedule, pick the teachers of subjects your child seems to struggle with the most. Then ask your child how he or she thinks it's going. Do they have too much homework? Are they worried about a certain topic or issue? Are they having any problems with other students? Prior to the conference, look at your child's work and then plan to ask the following:
- What's the best way to stay in touch with the teacher — text, email, notes, etc?
- How much time should my child be spending on homework each week? Is my child turning in assignments on time and keeping up with the work?
- Do we need a plan of action to help my child succeed?
Conferences should end on a happy note. 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.
Most schools have a curriculum night or special day for teacher conferences. In these events, you'll have less time with each teacher so make sure you have one or two important questions ready. If you can't meet with every teacher, plan to reach out by email to stay in touch and let them know you're concerned about your child's learning.
Also, be sure to describe any medical needs that may impact how your child performs in school. And if your child has special problems, ask if specialists are available.
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.
• If need be, 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