10 Ways to Make the Most of Your Parent-Teacher Conference

Parent-teacher conferences at New York City public schools start this week. How can you make the most of that 15-minute meeting? We culled the best advice from the experts to help you navigate the discussion.

parent teacher conference

1. Talk to your child before the conference. Ask how she feels about school, how she thinks she’s doing in class, what’s happening at lunch and recess, and if there is anything she wants you to discuss with the teacher.

2. Prepare a short list of questions for the teacher. Put the highest priority ones at the top, so if you run out of time you don’t miss asking what you really wanted to know. Here are 12 questions that you may want to ask.

3. Choose three things you want the teacher to know about your child. What’s going on at home? What’s her personality? What motivates her? What interests her? What hobbies or extracurriculars does she do? What worries her? Where does she need help? Note any accommodations and techniques previous teachers have used to help your child.

4. Have the right attitude. Don’t go in seeking validation that you’re a good parent or ready to defend your child. Start with the philosophy that you are building a partnership with the teacher to help your child succeed. Also, don’t let other parents’ opinions of the teacher send you in with preconceived notions.

5. Let the teacher lead the discussion. Although you have a lot of questions and points you want to make, she likely has a lot of important information to tell you as well. Plus, what she says may alter your approach, so hear her out before you make any requests or suggestions.

6. Be prepared for negatives. Teachers are trained pros who can tell you important things about your kid. You may not want to hear some of what they say, but be open to their criticism and don’t get defensive. View it as an opportunity to hear an objective perspective from someone who spends an enormous amount of time with your child.

7. Talk about your kid, not anything else. Don’t go in angry about standardized testing and the new Common Core standards or spend time socializing or chatting with the teacher. This conference should be about your child only. Set up a separate meeting with teachers, the PTA, or administrators to talk about general education issues.

8. Summarize the key points and any next steps. Make a plan for what you will do at home, what the teacher will try in class, and how you will communicate with the teacher in the future—does she prefer email, handwritten notes, or phone calls?

9. Talk to your child about what you and her teacher discussed. Kids may be worried about what was said, so start by telling them the positive things the teacher told you. Then let them know the areas that need work and how you, the teacher, and she are going to work together to help her be a success in school this year.

10. Follow up with the teacher. This one 15-minute conference shouldn’t be the only time you talk to your child’s teacher. Stay in touch about your child’s progress throughout the year, even when things are going well. When kids know parents and teachers are working together, they better understand how important their education is.

by Ellen Sturm Niz 

Ellen Sturm Niz is an editor and writer working, parenting, and living in Jackson Heights, Queens. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Google+.

Photo Credit: Night Owl City via photopin

Sources for this article include: The National Parent Teacher Association, the Harvard Family Research Project, and Scholastic.