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Today's Family Magazine

What to discuss during parent/teacher conferences

Sep 20, 2016 04:14PM ● By Today's Family
By Huntington Learning Center

It doesn’t take long for a new school year to get into full swing—and for both you and your child’s teacher to gain some insight into your child’s school performance.  Albert Groen of the Mentor and University Heights, Huntington Learning Centers encourages parents to pay close attention to how their children are doing in school from the very start of the year and develop a list of talking points for the first parent-teacher conference.

“Parents should think of the parent-teacher conference as a two-way conversation,” he says.  “It’s a chance for them to not just take in information about their children, but to share it as well in order to foster their children’s long-term success.”  Groen suggests that parents think about several things in anticipation of the fall conference:

Progress since last year – For the first parent-teacher conference of the year, it’s important to spend a little time talking about your child’s academic baseline at the beginning of the year and how he or she is progressing so far.  If you notice any lingering problems from last year, continued struggles with subjects that have proved challenging in prior grades, or other issues, you should check in with the teacher on his or her observations and how they compare.  The conference should be used to talk about your child’s cumulative growth—in addition to this school year’s progress—and the best ways for you to help him or her meet grade-level standards and expectations this year.

Skill gaps – Some school problems stem from gaps of knowledge—a “building block” skill that your child did not master in a previous grade. It’s not always easy for parents to detect these types of problems, but you and your teacher can look for red flags.  As the workload gradually increases each week into the school year, pay attention to grades on tests, worksheets and school work that comes home.  At homework time, take note of how long homework takes and your child’s frustration level.

Expectations of your child – If you and your child have laid out any goals for the school year, the conference is a good time to share those with the teacher and evaluate how your child is advancing toward them so far.  Hopefully during the first month or two of school you’ll get a sense of what the teacher expects of your child, but if anything is unclear—such as grading policies or the appropriate amount of time for homework—plan to talk about it at the parent-teacher conference.

Ways you can be supportive – Remember that you and your child’s teacher have the same goal in mind: helping your child succeed.  As the school year progresses, there might be times you feel uncertain about how best to support your child at home.  Share with your child’s teacher the ways you help your child currently and ask for suggestions on anything else you can do to cultivate your child’s independence, nurture his or her growth and reinforce classroom teachings.

Parent-teacher conferences are a great opportunity for parents to hear directly from teachers how school is going for their children and share what they’re seeing as well—and they are essential to the parent-teacher relationship.  “A communicative school-home partnership can make such an enormous difference for children,” says Groen.  “For parents, conferences are a great chance to talk about and compare observations, concerns and expectations.  Preparing for them thoughtfully will help parents gain the most from the conversation for the benefit of their children.”