10 Ways to Ace Your Parent-Teacher Conference

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Ready for that parent-teacher conference that's coming up? Whether you’re going to your child’s first or fifth parent-teacher conference, it’s best to come prepared. Discussing your child’s progress and finding out how he’s doing in class is one of the most important conversations you’ll have all year. Here are 10 ways to make sure that your next parent-teacher conference goes well.

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By Samantha Cleaver

Whether you’re going to your child’s first or fifth parent-teacher conference, it’s best to come prepared. Discussing your child’s progress and finding out how he’s doing in class is one of the most important conversations you’ll have all year. Here are 10 ways to make sure that your next parent-teacher conference goes well.

Consider the Calendar

Make sure you have enough time on either end of the parent conference. Bringing your child to a conference that’s jammed between work and dinnertime might not lead to a productive conversation. Look at your schedule and book early so you get your first choice.

Attend Every Conference

Even if your child’s teacher assures you that everything’s fine—your child has straight A’s and no behavior problems—attend the conference anyway. Take every opportunity to sit down with the teacher. If nothing else, you’ll continue to show your spectacular student that you care about his education.

Eliminate Distractions

Leave siblings at home, turn off your cell phone, and be sure the conference is a time for you to be focused and engaged. Whether it’s just you and the teacher, one on one, or if your child is involved and helping lead the conference, make sure you’re ready to give your undivided attention.

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Do Your Research

At a parent-teacher conference, the conversation should be all about your child’s academic progress and making sure that he’s on track. Do a little catching up on what’s in the curriculum and what your child has been working on before the conference. You don’t want the teacher’s comments to go over your head.

Start with the Positive

If your child loves his teacher, and especially if he doesn’t, make sure that you provide the teacher with some positive feedback and appreciation. It feels great to get a pat on the back, and it will help set a friendly, productive tone for the rest of your conversation.

Know the Agenda

Oftentimes, the primary goal of parent-teacher conferences is to talk about your child’s academic progress in class and his readiness for the next grade. In that case, save discussions about behavior problems or other concerns for a separate time. If those issues do come up, treat them as a problem to solve together, rather than finding a way to cast blame on the teacher.

Take a Tour

If your child is attending the conference with you, ask him to give you a tour of the classroom, or even the whole school if you have some extra time. You’ll learn about his favorite spaces, and it’ll give your child a chance to welcome you into the space, especially if he’s nervous about the conference.

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Review Work Samples

The teacher may have a portfolio ready, but you can always ask for examples of work. Or simply have your child bring work from home to share with his teacher. Seeing work samples will focus the conversation around the skills that your child has mastered and what he’s still working on.

Ask Questions

Prepare questions ahead of time, and never be afraid to ask them. But, perhaps the best questions are about how you can help your child at home. Ask what skills your child needs to work on most and how you can help. For example, how can you strengthen your child’s reading fluency? Or, what math fact games are good for at-home review?

Stay Informed

Education is constantly changing, so it’s good to know how local and state reforms affect your child’s school. Standardized testing and common core standards are two issues that may be out of the teacher’s hands—but she may have interesting insights about them. The more you know ahead of time, the more productive your conference will be.

First and foremost, parent-teacher conferences are a chance to start a conversation. Keep that in mind, and head into it prepared and with a positive attitude.

Want to really get involved at your child's school? Click here for 12 practical ways to help the teacher!

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