Sucessful Parent Teacher Meetings

by Penny on October 5, 2010 · 7 comments

They come around regularly and regularly parents have little time to prepare for them, either because of a busy schedule or because their student has “forgotten” to deliver the notification until the last moment. The key to having a successful meeting with your child’s teacher is to know what the goal of the exercise is and to have a clear set of objectives going in. So what is the goal of the P/T meeting? It is twofold: for the teacher to give you information about how your child is progressing in school, and for the teacher to get feedback from you about anything of which he/she should be aware that could be influencing your child’s life in school.

So have your questions ready and have a notebook to jot down the teachers answers – simply trying to remember what was said is a technique almost guaranteed to result in misunderstanding. And do remember that this is about information being shared between adults who want what is best for a child, so leave emotion at home! So no matter what your treasure has told you, or what the gossip is, at all costs avoid …. Teacher-rage!

Ask how your child is progressing relative to the published subject-specific objectives available on the BC Government web-site. Is he on-track to reach all of these objectives by the end of the school year? If not, what action does the teacher recommend you take NOW to make sure she gets back on track. Remember that no knowledge gap closes spontaneously – it just gets wider. As someone once said in terms of school success “The only thing that passes on its own is time”.

Ask about what standard is expected in homework. Is it a required component of a course? Does it count to any degree towards a final grade? What standard of presentation is expected? Can it be handed in late and still be graded? Does your child have any exercises outstanding or is he up-to-date?

Ask about your child’s attitude in class. Is she engaged and enthusiastic? Does he participate in question and answer sessions? Can she be relied on to work independently when asked to do so? Can he work effectively with a class partner or small group? Is she disruptive? Is he generally a positive presence in class? Does she generally co-operate in class activities?

Be prepared to discuss anything you think pertinent to your child’s school life. Remember that teachers are professionals and are bound by a code of ethics no less rigorous than your doctor or lawyer. If there are family issues which may be producing worrisome behaviours or attitude in school, be prepared to share such knowledge: a school has access to many resources which could be deployed to help.

Don’t be afraid to make suggestions as to how a teacher might improve his/her service to your child by being more or even less flexible about assignments, communicating with you more frequently via e-mail, providing you with a schedule of upcoming projects and assignment so that you can help your child organise his efforts more efficiently.

You should also remember that the teacher will have many parents to see in any one evening, so respect his/her time and the time of the other waiting parents. Cover what is important, stay on-task, and keep it pithy –short, focussed and to the point

When you get home sit down with your child and go over your notes with him. Let her give you her take on the topics you covered at the meeting. If he has a conflicting view on some of the teacher’s comments, don’t take sides; talk it through and find common ground – there is no right or wrong here; you are looking for solutions so just figure out what will work.

So to summarise

1)      Make sure you actually go to the meeting.

2)      Understand what you are trying to achieve by going.

3)      Have your questions ready.

4)      Make notes.

5)      Be as open, honest and receptive as you can.

6)      Don’t become emotional.

7)      Follow-up with your child, listen to his/her point of view and decide together on a way forward.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

ADA October 10, 2010 at 7:57 am

What a timely article! Thanks for this post! It was a great reminder.

Penny October 12, 2010 at 5:02 pm

Thanks – I am glad it was useful. Don’t forget when you attend parent/teacher conferences to ask to see samples of your child’s work, specifically work that has been graded or ‘evaluated’. If he/she isn’t doing that well in a specific area, then ask to see other work that meets and or exceeds the standards so that you have a point of comparison!

newvicdad October 12, 2010 at 11:42 pm

Im a single dad whose child just entered the Victoria school system in grade 2. We havent had a formal P/T meeting yet, but I plan on bringing my son. I’ve talked to the teacher a number of times since class started and feel I’m pretty up-to-date on everything this article suggests I’m looking for. I’ve also talked and studied with my son. I’d rather use this scheduled, formal time for all three of us to discuss openly, in the classroom setting, how the first few months have been.

Oncearunner October 13, 2010 at 12:13 pm

If it’s not a student-led conference I would suggest leaving your child at home. You will get much more honesty and direction from the teacher without your child there.

Penny October 13, 2010 at 12:39 pm

There are pros and cons to attending a parent teacher meeting with child in tow – I would check in with the teacher and see how she/he feels. I know as a teacher if I have anything specific or difficult to discuss, I find it hard to do with the child there – particularly younger children. I like to be up front and honest and do not want to knock a student’s confidence. What I would suggest is spending the first 10 minutes chatting with the teacher without your son present, but having him join you for the last 5 or 10 minutes. That being said – you know your son best and what may not work well for one child might work perfectly well for another – so when all is said and done, go with your gut!

Candy November 11, 2010 at 11:03 pm

Great article, but with the parent teacher meetings only being 10 minutes it is hard to really find out any information in regards to how your child is doing. I try to stay in communication with my son’s teacher on a regular basis, and I now email the teacher before these meetings and ask if there are any concerns I should know about and if so, we arrange for a time/date to go in and talk.

This year my son is going to be doing student led conference so I am not really sure what to expect. Any heads up on this type of parent/teacher interview. Pros/Cons.

Penny November 15, 2010 at 2:37 pm

I am not a fan of student led conferences – it makes it difficult to find out from the teacher how your child is doing. It is difficult to have a full blown discussion with the child present – unless it is all good news. I used to host an open night to have the kids give the parents a tour of the class. Each child prepared a portfolio of their work to share with their parents, and we usually made some big books to share. It allowed the kids to show of a little and to have ownership over their classroom and work.
If your child is leading the conference, think about asking him which pieces of work he is most proud of and why? Also ask him which work he would like to improve and how he can do this. If there are any behavioral concerns – lack of focus, blurting out answers etc. use the time with your son and the teacher to discuss a plan. Ask him what he thinks he can do to work on the issue and what would constitute a ‘good’ day in regards to the behavior he is trying to modify. Then see if the teacher will indicate on a daily basis how he has done. This could be a note in his planner, or if he is younger simply a stamp on his hand when he has had a good day.
Hope this helps.

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