• If you’re anything like me, then you don’t always have time to prepare for parent-teacher conferences—you’re just glad when you can get to the conferences themselves.  On conference day I run from teacher to teacher (with three children at the same school!) in a mad rush and end up with less valuable information in my head than I would like. Of course, I bring a notepad and pencil to jot down each teacher’s comments but still always seem to leave feeling like I had forgotten to ask something. In recent years, with the child to teacher ratio getting worse in most schools, ours included, the teachers often don’t have much time with each family. Some teachers are organized and come well prepared to cover necessary topics, while others are less structured and leave you with a general feel for your child’s performance. I personally don’t do well with the latter. With only 10-15 minutes of face time efficiency seems to be the key to leaving each meeting a more informed and aware parent.  This year I put together a parent-teacher checklist that I am posting at the end of this article to help me cover the topics I want to address–

    1. 1. Is my child performing at grade level? If not, please explain.
    2. 2. How is s/he doing on tests (grades, time-management, anxiety level, etc.)?
    3. 3. Is s/he turning in homework assignments on time?
    4. 4. Can I have a list of upcoming assignments or can I view them online?
    5. 5. How is my child’s overall behavior (interruptive, enthusiastic, etc.)?
    6. 6. How is s/he adjusting socially (popular, isolated, or somewhere in between)?
    7. 7. Can I see some samples of his/her assignments?
    8. 8. Discuss your child (physical, personal, medical or mental health concerns).
    9. 9. Any suggestions (Action Plan Goals) to improve his/her performance?
    10. 10. Exchange/update contact information (e-mail and phone number).
    11. 11. Leave your child a note to let him/her know that you were there.

    After my meetings I try to sit down with each child as soon as possible, while the conversations are still fresh in my mind. I always start off with asking my child how they see themselves doing in the class and then we talk about his/her teacher’s feedback. I start with the positives and then move on to areas that need work.  When there are vast differences between the teacher’s impression and my children’s impressions I like to ask them why they think that’s occurring. I’m often surprised at how creative my children can be at explaining the discrepancies. When there’s a problem I try to let them know that perhaps they aren’t living up to their potential (which may or may not be the case) but that I believe they can do better. I ask them where and how they think they can improve to give them some sense of control and ownership. It’s my philosophy that even the class valedictorians have room for improvement.  Not because they are not doing well- obviously they are- but because having goals and challenges keeps children engaged and interested in learning.  It is the motivation and curiosity that will truly allow them to mature and keep them reaching for their highest potential.

    Download our Parent-Teacher Conference Checklist>