16 November 2009 10:18 AM

Parent/Teacher Conferences

by Dr. Rick

This week is NEA’s American Education Week, and Sylvan Learning is proud to partner with the NEA to work with our area educators, parents and student to celebrate the importance of education – and the importance of parent-teacher conferences.


As a classroom teacher, I liked when it was parent-teacher conference time and I hoped for a large turnout. At one of the schools where I taught, every parent showed up and I was lucky to be able to park in the same zip code. At another, we teachers sat and drank coffee together, waiting for people to show up. 


Guess which school had the better student achievement rate?


Research bears out what common sense tells us: the more the parents are involved in their children’s school lives, the better the kids do. The easiest and most effective way to be involved is, of course, by talking to your students about school. Every day. Without being inquisitorial about it, show a personal, respectful interest in the day – what did you learn?  What funny thing happened? How’s Ms. Smith, didn’t she just return from maternity leave? How was the math quiz?  So, tell me about the school play tryouts, who showed up?


If you’ve started these daily conversations early enough – say, kindergarten – you won’t have much trouble. If you’re just beginning, it’ll take some time. But don’t give up. The rewards are astonishing.


The next most effective way to be involved is to keep in touch with your child’s teachers.  It’s more convenient than ever to do this. Schools have websites, teachers have their own pages on those sites, and the information just keeps coming. Take advantage of these conveniences. Know when important assignments, tests, field trips, games, plays, concerts, and special events are scheduled. Keep the conversations going.


And when it’s time for parent-teacher conferences, if it’s at all possible, show up. As convenient as email is, nothing beats a face-to-face. Believe me, teachers like when you show up. We like to know – we need to know – about your children. Tell us what you know. 


Next up, I’ll list parent-teacher conference hints from a teacher’s perspective...


Offered in a spirit of cooperation in the name of the children, here are some suggestions from the teachers’ point of view to help make these parent-teacher conferences as beneficial as possible.

  1. Come prepared. No, this isn’t a homework assignment and it isn’t like an IRS audit. It’s just helpful to remember we have only twenty minutes. So if you have some concerns or questions, jot them down so you don’t forget them. You make a list for the grocery store, why not for something far more important? Don’t be shy about taking notes during our time together, either. You don’t want to forget anything. Remember, we like note-taking!
  2. Remember, we’re in this together. We each want the same thing: the success of your child. We promise not to get defensive if you criticize the school or your child’s previous experiences. You promise the same thing if we make suggestions like additional testing or new study routines at home.
  3. Stay in touch. The more adults involved in a child’s life, the more her chances of success. So, stay in touch with us. Let us know if there’s something going on that could affect her school performance and which we may not be aware of. We like building relationships with our students’ families.
  4. Follow up with your child after our conference. Tell him what we talked about, starting with the good things first. Let him know that we all have the same goal: his success. He’s the reason for our partnership.
  5. If you’re able, volunteer. There’s a lot to do around our school, and we’re always shorthanded. If you’re able to come along on some field trips, help monitor the lunchroom from time to time, assist with collating and managing teaching materials, help kids practice their three R’s, we’ll take you up on your occasional offer with great gratitude. It’s good for your child to know that you’re interested not only in her achievement but in the success of the school as well. If you’re not able to volunteer, that’s okay, too.

Just as in every other aspect of life, communication is key to the success of children in school. Communication between child and family. Communication between family and teachers. We teachers want to know about your child – strengths, interests outside of school, study habits, health concerns. We like when you ask about how you can help at home, about his behavior in school, about what we’ll be teaching, about testing, about special events.


We know how busy your life is - ours is too. But we also know that, like you, we’re dedicated to the success of children, and we’re eager to accept the help and knowledge of the most important folks in children’s lives – their parents. We’ll work together because together is always better than alone.


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This blog is for the good of education - for students, for teachers and for parents. I very much value a two-way communication with you and welcome and encourage your comments and feedback. However, to facilitate a constructive conversation that is beneficial to everyone in this online community, I expect the same respect in your comments that I present in my blog.

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