Communication between home and school is essential to a child’s successful school experience. Fall is the time when many schools, public and private, have their first parent-teacher conferences of the year.
Unfortunately, these conferences are usually short, sometimes only twenty minutes. You want to use your time well. Save the chit-chat and small talk for another day!
Just as your teacher prepares for the conference, so should you. Whether your child is in 5th grade or in his first year of preschool, this holds true.
Know that your teacher will begin the conference saying something “nice” about your child, even the most challenging child in the class. “Jacob has the biggest smile!” . Just get on with it; time is a fleeting!
If your child is in elementary school, I suggest you walk into your conference with a sheet of paper (and not your phone!) that lists questions you would like to know about your child. Such a paper gives a clear message that you have an agenda. Be brave! This is your conference about your child.
Every parent enjoys hearing the good stuff about her child. “Amanda is doing so well. She plays with everyone; she is well behaved. I have no problems with her.” That’s great to hear, but it’s a whole lot of nothing, if you ask me.
Most parents anticipate learning how their child is doing academically. But honestly, don’t you kind of know that already? Wouldn’t you rather hear the things you don’t and can’t know about your child’s life at school?
I suggest looking at your teacher as a window onto who your child is while at school. What do you want to know about your child at school? Tell me things I don’t know firsthand. Remember, when at school your child is often a variation of the child you see at home. (Often a better version, too!)
When the teacher is done with her presentation, it will be your turn. Here are some questions you can use as a starting point for formulating your own questions. You will need to gauge the question to your child’s age and grade.
- Towards what activity in the classroom does my child gravitate?
- Towards what activity at recess/on the yard does my child gravitate?
- Does my child seem to base his choice of what to do on the activity or the children participating?
- Does my child work independently? Does he ask for help, if needed?
- Does my child prefer to work alone or with others?
- Does my child participate during group times?
- Which friends does my child choose most often?
- Is there any child with whom you think my child is a good match, with whom she should have a playdate?
- Does my child have anything in which he is particularly interested?
- Is there anything from which my child steers clear? Never does?
- I know that all children have areas on which they need to work. What is that area for my child?
- What do you see as his area of weakness?
- Does my child need extra help in any areas?
- What do you see as his area of strength?
- What are you goals for my child? Socially? Emotionally?
- In what way, if at all, should I be involved with my child’s homework?
- Is there any way I can help you to meet your goals for my child at home?
- What are some questions that you suggest I ask my child on a daily basis about your class?
- Is there anything in particular on which you would like my child to work?
- How can I support you (school) at home?
- Is there anything you need from me?