The Learning Lab

Kathy Malatesta on education, libraries and technology

It’s Parent Teacher Conference Season

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As someone who has been the student, the parent and the teacher, I can say that there are few times of the school year more angst-ridden than Parent Teacher Conference season. It’s funny, isn’t it? We are all on the same page; we all want our students to do well, to perform to their best ability. However, having someone else talk to us about our children inevitably changes the dynamic. So as someone who has been on both sides, here are some suggestions for what we would like to see from each other. Hopefully this will help make this a more relaxing and informative time of year.

Conference

Parents want teachers to know:

  • We may be feeling swamped and are doing the best we can.
  • Please speak to me in terms I understand. If you use education-speak, it either feels intimidating or as if you are trying to seem superior.
  • Consider starting out with something positive. It can put me more at ease if I feel you value my child rather than opening with a criticism.
  • You spend more waking hours with my child than I do. I would feel more comfortable if I felt you knew my child. Tell me something about your schedule, a story about something in your class.
  • I know that you have back-to-back conferences, but I don’t want to feel like you’re watching the clock for your next appointment.

Teachers want parents to know

  • We want to feel like we are on the same side. A suggestion does not mean that we are criticizing your parenting.
  • Regardless of your child’s age, reading together is still one of the most important things you can do – simply reading at the same time is a good thing.
  • Let your children know that school is important and that you value the work.
  • We may see behavior that your child does not display at home. Please work with us to address concerns.
  • Do check on your child’s homework but please do not complete it for her. We use homework to gauge understanding. If if comes back complete and correct, then we are not getting an accurate picture.
  • If the homework takes all night, please let us know. Simply writing a note about how long an assignment took and what your child had difficulty with will help us to help them.

If your school allows students to participate in the process, I encourage you to include them. This reinforces the idea that parents, teachers and students are a team. You are all working toward the same goal. Perhaps most importantly it sends the message that the student is the focus, an active participant in the process. After all, they are the ones we are all there to support. So this Parent Teacher Conference season, let’s all take a deep breath, relax and enjoy  the opportunity to do the best for our kids.