An A+ Parent-Teacher Conference

by | Oct 22, 2012 | Parenting, School Success and Learning, TODAY Show Appearance

The right questions and what to do to boost your child’s learning success. Parenting tips I shared on TODAY show.

If you’ve just received a memo from your child’s school that your parent-teacher conference has been scheduled, you’re not alone. Over the next weeks millions of parents will be walking into those classrooms to sit down with the teacher to discuss their children’s progress.

Educators realize just how important parental involvement is in increasing students’ learning success.

Many schools are touting new strategies just to get parents to those meetings including holding the conference at more “inviting” locations such as restaurants, offering to Skype it to parents on-the-road, and even having students lead the meeting and explain their progress.

Whatever the format, the conference is crucial to your child’s learning and helping you understand his progress.

Here are the three steps you can take Before, During, and After the conference to help make the most of the time and boost your child’s school success.

Hint: If you are a military parent deployed or working away from home, ask if you can Skype the conference. Most schools are very receptive! Ask!


Before the Conference: DO YOUR HOMEWORK

Most appointments last about twenty minutes (do find out how much time you have), so it’s important for you to be prepared so you can use that time wisely.

Here are a few things you can do before the conference to be ready:

Check grades and teacher expectations

Many schools post student’s grades on their Student Information System (via the school website – just click into “Parent Connect” and register). You can usually find your child’s attendance record, trips to nurse’s office, and discipline referrals as well. Do check to see if the teacher has a website with postings as well. Most teachers post their curriculum, rules, expectations and homework schedule on a weekly website or email blast or in a newsletter. Review them! Review your child’s past work. There’s no reason to get caught off guard. Check for each of your children’s teachers.

Jot questions and prioritize concerns

Take a few minutes to jot down questions for the teacher. Take those with you so you won’t forget to ask. Also, don’t forget to ask your kid if there is anything the teacher might tell you that you don’t know. (It’s always best to not be surprised). “What do you think the teacher will say?”

Meet your needs

If you need extra set of “ears” to be with you, you feel intimidated, or worry the teacher may use jargon you don’t understand, bring a friend (a neighbor, relative, older child). If you need a translator (language or sign), call the school to arrange one. Let the teacher know before the conference if are in a contentious divorce and your partner requests to come to the conference separately. Request for duplicate copies of the child’s work so as not to offend the other parent.

Block enough time

The teacher has scheduled only a set amount of time, so you will want to use every second wisely and not be distracted. Arrange a baby-sitter for a younger child and allow ample time to get there. If you’re late, you lose your time.

During the Conference: ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

Go to the conference with a friendly open mind. Leave any animosity outside the door. Listen carefully and stay focused on your child –not your past school experiences, educational views, or the teacher’s life. Take notes of what you need to remember. Your goal at the conference is to ideally form a respectful alliance with that teacher, find out how your child is doing and leave a beginning resolution to any problem. Here are the four areas of learning to discuss:


Find out what your child’s strongest and weakest subjects, how he compares to the other students and if he is keeping up with the workload. You might ask: “If you were to evaluate my child now, what would his grade and average test score be in each subject?”  If the teacher uses educational terms that you’re not familiar with, ask for a simpler explanation. Ask to see specific examples of any academic problem so you know how to help or if a tutor might be helpful. If the struggle is severe and your child is working below her potential, ability and other students, discuss whether an assessment for the Individualized Education Plan (I.E.P.) might be in order.


Find out how your child gets along with others. Let the teacher know of any bullying or repeated peer rejection and create a safety plan. Ask for recommendations for a new friend if there are social problems.


Find out how your child behaves around peers and adults, if he is showing up on time and prepared to learn. If there are behavior issues, get specifics: what the behavior looks like, the teacher’s discipline approach, any triggers or patterns (when and where the behavior usually happens), and how it is being resolved.


Find out how your child is coping. Explain any home issues that could affect your child’s learning performance (a divorce, deployment, illness of a relative) and any serious allergies, sleep problems, medication, counseling, or other health-related issues that the teacher should know about.

If your child is having any kind of problem in one or more of those four learning areas, then discuss strategies you and the teacher can do to help your child by creating common goals. Discuss how you will you know if things are improving or declining and if no improvement, ask what our “next step” will be and how the teacher would like to be contacted.


Go home, share what you learned with your child and parenting partner, and then commit to doing what you discussed.

If you see that your child continues to struggle or you do not see improvement in a few weeks, or things get worse, call for another conference.

If you still don’t get help, then it’s time to seek the help of the principal, vice-principal or counselor.

The former-teacher in me also offers this piece of advice: Remember, teachers are trained professionals who for the most part cherish teaching children.

If you feel appropriate write a note to the teacher thanking her for her time and advice. Believe me, it is appreciated.

And if you already had your parent conference, then just bookmark this article for your next meeting!

Dr. Michele Borba, Parenting Expert

You can follow me on twitter @MicheleBorba

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