As public schools finish the first marking period, most of us face the same upcoming event on the calendar: Parent-Teacher Conference Day.
I have a confession… This teacher hates Conference Day.
Don’t get me wrong, I like meeting with parents. We schedule conferences all year and welcome collaborating with parents and providing consistency between home and school. But Conference Day feels like speed dating.
At my school, parents are afforded a 15-minute window to voice their praise or concerns. By the end of the day and 25+ conferences later, I am beat, and the day is a blur. I’m sure parents face the same frustration over scheduling and attending these meetings, so…
Here are three tips from a middle school teacher’s point of view to make that time productive.
- Be on time.
If you sign up for a time slot, arrive promptly and respect the time of other parents on the schedule. Teachers feel awkward as we try to redirect a rambling parent, and please don’t talk through my bathroom break or lunch.
- Do background research.
Review your child’s grades. Are there inconsistencies? Are assignments missing? Talk with your child about what is working or not working, and use those insights to make a list of questions for the teacher. If you’re limited to a short conference time, concentrate on one or two concerns. You can always follow up through email.
- Keep a positive, professional attitude and listen.
The most productive parent-teacher relationship fosters communication and problem-solving. If the conversation includes behavior issues, work avoidance, or poor grades, resist the urge to become defensive. Instead, ask for specifics and focus on how to help your child, not who to blame. On that note, a conference is also not a place to air grievances about your ex. (Yes, this happens a lot, and it’s uncomfortable.)
Teachers focus on growth mindset a lot, meaning that talents and intelligence develop through perseverance. It’s helpful when parents model the same—encouraging a love for learning and valuing hard work, not just the test grade.
If your child isn’t producing grade-level work, collaborate with teachers and school counselors on bridging the gap. If your child earns an A+ in every subject, ask about enrichment opportunities or how courses are leveled.
No one knows your child as well as YOU do, so tell us about your child’s passions and struggles. All teachers want that partnership, and the most important four words spoken at a conference are,”How can I help?”