Gwinnett County has its parent-teacher conferences this week so I’ve been thinking a lot about that experience.
I have a theory about parent-teacher conferences: I think they’re a lot like yearly job reviews for adults. I don’t ever think what’s being said should be a surprise. I think employees and parents should be pretty much aware week-to-week of how they or their child is doing.
If there are surprises at a conference then clearly there’s been some break in communication with the teacher (fault could be on either side).
Even thought I pretty well know how my kids are doing grade wise and conduct wise from the Friday weekly folders and from looking through their work, I am often more interested to learn at conferences about how they are working and interacting with their peers and teachers. I want to know how they are doing socially, how they are developing. Are they excited to be there? Are they vocal in class? Are they shy in class? What are their work habits – fast, slow, efficient? (I like to actually see this stuff for myself by working in the classroom but as they get older you get less and less opportunities for that.)
I also want to know what skills in particular we need to be working on at home. Is there a particular area where I need to be supplementing the school?
The other big item that I try to glean from the spring conference is what type of teacher and class environment does this year’s teacher think they need next year. We have to fill out a form in the spring that helps place your child the next year. On that form, the school asks which type of teacher does your child respond best to? What type of learning environment do they like? What type of learner is your child?
I appreciate the teacher’s input on those items.
Our school sent out these tips for conferences in our e-newsletter:
- Prepare questions for the teacher before the conference. If you can, send the questions to the teacher prior to the conference so that she can ensure that your questions/concerns are addressed.1.
2. Teachers have limited time to meet with each parent. At the end of your allotted time, if you feel you have additional questions, please re-schedule for another time.
3. If your child is weak in an area, ask the teacher for some suggestions for resources to help improve that area. (Our school website has lots of links to great sites to help strengthen content areas!)
4. At times, conferences become emotional. If the conference begins to feel uncomfortable with the parent or teacher in disagreement, reschedule for another time. This will allow both parties to reflect and make decisions with a clear head. Never hesitate to ask for an administrator to attend a conference. Sometimes an impartial third party can help others see different perspectives.
5. Remember, parents and teachers want the same thing! Both are striving for each child to read their academic potential.
I always try to arrange a babysitter or swap with a neighbor for me to go the conference. I can’t stand worrying about what mischief my kids are getting into while I’m trying to discuss their progress. I also don’t want my kids listening in. They don’t necessarily need to know point blank that I think they are crappy organizers or whatever the criticism is.
I know teachers will complain but I think the conferences need to last longer. Twenty minutes is a very short time to review the papers they want to show you and ask questions about their development. Conferences always get backed up and then parents are waiting. I think if they allotted 10 extra minutes for each there would be less back up.
What are you hoping to learn from your parent-teacher conference? Do you find the experience valuable or a waste of time? Do you ever send questions in advance? Do you and your spouse go together? Are you only asking about grades or other types of development? Do you think they should be longer or more frequent?