By Stephanie A., Master Tutor
Although getting the kids up and ready for school may continue to present a daily
challenge, by now most students have adjusted to the inevitable: school is open and
showing up is required. To varying degrees, parents have been apprised by their
children of their progress in school. Some stellar performances may have even earned a
place of honor on the family refrigerator door.
Nevertheless, while the overwhelming majority of students are forthcoming about their
success in school, others may suffer from selective memory: they can remember to tell
their parents about all their good grades, but that C on the math quiz may have slipped
their minds. The parent-teacher conference can help clear up some of that memory
The following suggestions will help you navigate that meeting. Depending on the size of
your child’s class, the teacher may have to schedule anywhere between 15 and 30
individual conferences. Therefore, if your own schedule is tight, respond quickly when
the teacher reaches out to you to schedule a good time to meet. You may not get your
first choice for a time slot, but your quick response will make the teacher more
responsive to your needs.
Because so many conferences are scheduled, the allotted time the teacher sets aside
for your conference should be respected. Other parents also operate with busy
schedules, so if you feel that you need to have more time with the teacher, schedule a
follow-up meeting instead of cutting into someone else’s time.
Depending on the dates of the school’s marking periods, conferences may be scheduled
right before or immediately following the issuing of report cards. If the conference comes
before the report cards are issued, a head’s up for good news is always a good thing,
but if the news is a little less celebratory than you had hoped, listen to the teacher’s
advice and begin a conversation with your child that is not intrinsically tied to a grade. If
the student appreciates that she is already working to improve, seeing the grade in black
and white will be easier to accept. If the conference is scheduled for after grades go out,
you have had time to digest the news. While the teacher is in charge of the agenda of
the conference, having information concerning your child’s progress can be helpful in
your responses and your questions.
The conference usually has three parts to it: an introductory overall assessment of the
student’s progress, a snapshot of how the student interacts in class and a plan going
forward. Each of these components will give you a good idea of what your child is like in
school. Most often the conference is a time to laud your child’s achievements, but if the
news you receive is a little less positive than you had hoped, as difficult as it is to hear
anything negative about our kids, don’t shoot the messenger. Teachers are there to
help their students develop good study habits early in his or her academic career.
Other than providing children with a loving home and a sense of security, parents want
to do everything they can to ensure that their children get a good education. The parent-
teacher conference offers a wonderful opportunity to get to know a child’s teachers and
to help their kids learn how to learn.