Here are my Top 10 Tips for a productive parent/teacher conference. Some may not be what you expect, but I promise they make a difference.
1. Include your child in the conference – this alleviates the he said/she said scenario. Children need to feel that they are a part of the solution.
2. Come prepared with questions written down so you won’t forget them - have specific questions, but prioritize them because you may not have time to address them all in one conference.
3. Take notes or make sure you get a copy of any notes taken by the teacher - just as in the doctor's office, you may forget what the teacher said and what you agreed to for a solution.
4. Time is usually limited, so stay on topic - often teachers have other duties they need to be at so they may only be able to meet for about 15 minutes. Lengthy explanations or stories are not necessary. Be wary of TMI (too much information) that may take you off track.
5. Create an action plan before you leave with teachers - ideally this should be a problem-solving meeting. Come up with possible solutions to try before you leave.
6. Agree on a date to follow up on the action plan - follow up in important. Just as you would follow up with your doctor, follow up with the teacher.
7. Ask the teacher how you might better support his or her work on behalf of your child - treat this relationship as a partnership. Parents and teachers are co-creators of a child's education.
8. Tell teachers if something is different in your home (i.e., separation, divorce, illness, job loss, death, etc.) - children are sensitive to life changes in the home and will be distracted by them. Let teachers know if something has changed at home.
9. Leave egos at the door; this is about your child, not you - all too often parents and teachers make the conference about what one or the other is NOT doing for the child. But it can't be limited to this. The child is accountable as well. Make this less about you, and more about your child.
10. Make sure you know what the teacher will do, what you will do, and what your child will do to improve the situation - point by point, who will do what and by when? Make a list and then follow up in an agreed upon timeframe to see how everyone is holding up their end.
All hands on deck! Education is not a one-man show. This is something we create together!