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The Informed Parent

Preparing For Parent Conferences

by Carolyn Warnemuende, M.S.
Published on Oct. 06, 2008

Successful parent conferences require thoughtful preparation on the parts of both parents and teachers. Often parents attend conferences without thinking through what they want from the interaction. They believe they will be given any important information and that will be enough. This can lead to their feeling unfilled. Parent preparation allows for two-way interaction where both parents and teachers needs have been met.

This month’s article offers tips about how you can best prepare for parent conferences. The first, in most schools, is held in November at the end of the first school quarter. These face-to-face interactions with the teacher are short, usually 20-30 minutes. Their purpose is for you to learn how your child is achieving after the first eight to ten weeks of school. For some, this will be the first time you have met the teacher. You may have questions about the school program or concerns about your child’s progress.

Now is the time to begin generating questions you would like answered at the conference. The following suggestions will assist in your preparation. As ideas and questions arise, write them down.

  • Listen to your child. What does she say about school? Is she happy, or frustrated? Be prepared to tell the teacher the messages you are receiving at home.
  • Watch your child. Where does she find ease in her homework? Where does she struggle? Does she resist doing homework?
  • Does your child bring her homework home? Does she have the required books and materials to complete the task?
  • Does your child return her completed homework or does she leave it at home or in her backpack?
  • Does your child bring home notes apprising you of upcoming school events?
  • Do you have concerns about your child’s ability to complete assignments either because she cannot focus or because the work seems too difficult?
  • Are you concerned about your child’s social skills? Does she talk about friends or does she feel isolated?

Your first job at the parent conference is to listen to what the teacher has to say. This is your chance to learn her perceptions of your child and her abilities. She may answer some of the questions you have. Near the end of the conference, the teacher will ask if you have questions. Now is the time for you to address the questions on your list. Remember, time is limited. If your concerns require additional conversation, ask to have a second conference scheduled.

Your child’s teacher wants her to succeed. She knows that you are instrumental in that success. When children have difficulty, parents, teachers, and ancillary professionals must work together as a team. When you address your concerns coherently and straightforwardly, it gives the teacher the knowledge that you have thought through the situation and know how to address it. This results in a successful parent conference.

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