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How to Make the Most of Parent-Teacher Conferences

Learn how to make the most of parent-teacher conferences in this Howcast video about child anxiety issues.


I'm here to talk about how to make the most of parent-teacher conferences. Now if you think about it, parent-teacher conferences involve three people: the parents, the teacher, and the child. And these days, sometimes children are actually in those parent-teacher conferences. But we want to think about that those three different parties have a very different interest in what happens in those.

Let's talk about the parents themselves. First of all, when you're going to a parent-teacher conference, lots of times what's in the room is all the feelings you had about being a student. You sometimes are in that classroom, you're in a littler chair, and you think about "Oh, I didn't like being in school," or sometimes it was a great experience. So check your expectations and your past history at the door a little bit. And realize that sometimes what you're feeling is that you feel like you're on display about how you are behaving and how you are doing as a parent of that child. And you know what? It's about the child.

The second thing is that it's about that child, and what you want to do is come to that meeting with some questions, some observations, as opposed to a list of concerns. And make sure it's a full list. There are some things that you want to get across that maybe are good, that you want to reward and praise that teacher, and then there may be other things that are concerning for you. You want to make sure it's mixed, if at all possible.

Now the teachers are there, and sometimes they feel the pressure as well. They feel pressure for those kids to do well. They feel pressure to perform for you. And so there is a lot of their expectations and they're trying to do the best job that they can.

So the idea about a parent-teacher conference is that it's a collaboration between people. It's not a "Who is right?" and "Who is wrong?" It's "What can together we do to make things the best for this child?" So it can help to know what are the expectations for that year, for that grade, for your child. You want to make sure to find out what your child is doing, in terms of meeting those expectations. If you have a concern, don't wait for the parent-teacher conference. Go there sooner, rather than later. You don't want to wait to hear that something is a problem. You don't want to wait to say that there is a problem. You also want to make sure that you bring to the table anything that you need to about what's going on with the family that may be impacting how that student is learning or how that student is behaving. You may want to keep some of those things to yourself, in terms of financial stress or some kind of family illness or something else that's going on, but sometimes giving a little information and some insight to those teachers can help them understand and be much more supportive to that child, because they are there for the academic support, as well as the emotional support, because we know that a good teacher can really help change the life of those kids.

And the last thing is you want to usually walk away with a plan for everyone. When a child is doing great, you can even have a plan for "How can we do better? Are there extra things I can do at home? What's working well?" And if your child is having some difficulty, then you should all have a plan for what the teacher can do, what you can do, what you want to help the child do. And then make sure there is some action item about "When are we going to revisit this plan and assess the progress and see if we need to then come up with a new plan and how are we all doing with it?" But focus on the fact that it's "we" helping that child, and then the conference becomes a much more productive time.

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