School is much more than just learning book smarts; it is a place for children to learn proper social behavior and teamwork. Even if children are doing great academically, socially they could be failing. Parent-teacher conferences are very important, and will give valuable insight to both parties as to what they expect the student to learn.
Why Should Parents and Teachers Meet?
Parents and teachers need to work together in order to help a student learn and be successful. Meeting the student’s teacher and understanding classroom rules and expectations is extremely important for parents. If parents know the rules of the classroom and the educational expectations, they will be able to enforce those expectations at home and help the student better adjust to those expectations.
Many parents may be fortunate enough to meet the teacher prior to a conference, or even be a volunteer to a teacher. Unfortunately, that is not always the case, and at times the parent-teacher conference will be the first time the two meet. If this is the case, please be open to what each other has to say, and always be sure to ask about positive information as well as negative.
In many cases teachers will sit down and present the student’s work to the parent, and then talk about any social issues that may need to be addressed. If the parent knows of any problems that need to be mentioned, this is the time to talk. The teacher, in most cases, will be happy to know of any problems the child might have and how it may effect his learning. The goal of the teacher at these conferences is not to belittle the parents or the student, or even to tell the parents how they should parent. The overall goal of the conference is to show the parent how the student has progressed and in what areas the student may need help.
Teachers will often suggest ways to help the student learn academic material at home, and may have ideas that work. If there is a discipline problem, the parent and teacher may be able to work on a system to enforce good behavior in and out of the classroom, which will help the student in all areas of learning. It is also comforting for teachers to know that the parents are willing to help their child seek a great education, and willing to make an effort in continuing their learning at home.
Parents often find that teachers are genuine in their comments, and are willing to help any way they can. Remember to go into the conference with a positive attitude and a willingness to offer opinions and suggestions on how to help the student.
Overall, the conference, is really about the student. Make sure everything talked about and decided is for the betterment of the student.
Questions to Ask a Teacher
There are two main questions that need to be asked: Is my child doing the work? How is my child socially? These questions are very general, and need to be more specific.
Therefore, ask the teacher what areas the child needs to improve in academically? The teacher, as was mentioned, will usually have examples of the student’s work and progress. If the work has shown no progress, then the teacher will be able to lay it aside and explain where the child may be falling short. The teacher will also make suggestions on how the parent can teach the student to learn the material more effectively.
Once ways to improve academically have been addressed, ask the teacher questions about behavior (if needed). Be specific. Ask: Does the child follow directions? Does the child sit still and listen during class time? Has the child shown any signs of being a social outcast or being bullied or being the bully? Whatever the question is, make sure it is as specific as possible. General questions about behavior can be too broad and offer more information than may be needed. Breaking down a question can be much more beneficial, and sometimes it will help eliminate a problem more efficiently so that other lesser problems can be better worked on.
Other questions parents need to ask include questions about academic expectations, rules of the classroom, and discipline procedures. If the teacher has handouts on this information, take it and read it. Pass the information on to the students, and be sure they know and understand what is expected of them.
Be Courtesy and be Prepared
Parents and teachers need to be calm and courtesy to each other. Parents need to remember that teachers have their child all day, and will witness things they may not. Teachers need to understand that parents are naturally going to defend their child and their way of parenting. What is discussed does not need to be made personal, and everything needs to focus on the student.
Before walking into a conference, be prepared. Teachers need to have everything the parent needs to see organized neatly and ready to go. Parents need to have any questions written down or memorized, and both need to have a positive attitude.
Remember to be an encouragement to each other. Help one another out and find ways to keep the student moving forward in his education. Parents and teachers need to work together as a team. Parents should be willing to make time to help their children learn, and teachers should be willing to change teaching strategies if needed (especially if it would benefit a large number of students). Both parties need to understand this conference is to communicate and come up with ways to help each other teach the student to adjust and learn.