Updated: Jun 29, 2022
A parent-teacher conference can be a powerful chance for family members and teachers to exchange information and ideas necessary for helping a child thrive. But how can families do their part to make the best use of the time? Here are some tips to get the most out of your meetings.
Before the Conference
1. Reflect on your goals. Begin with self-reflection then get as specific as possible about what you want to know and/or be able to do as a result of the conference. For example, a goal may be, I'd like to learn 1-2 ways to help my child read more smoothly.
You can always communicate your goals by email or the school’s communication system in advance of the meeting so the teacher can be prepared and you can use your time efficiently.
2. Check-in with your child. Chat with your child to make sure their perspective, ideas, questions, etc., are part of the conference discussion. You can ask your child questions like:
What do you think/hope your teacher will say?
How is the school year going so far?
What are you currently working on/learning?
Do you have any questions or concerns you want me to bring up?
During the Conference
3. Connect with your child’s teacher. Before discussing grades, behavior, data points, and student work, get to know your child’s teacher and be ready to share a little about yourself. Children learn best when the significant adults in their lives -- caregivers, teachers, and other family and community members -- work together to encourage and support them. And working together is easier done with a degree of rapport and understanding.
4. Prioritize. On average, conferences are about 15-20 minutes long. To make the best use of your time, focus on one area. The area can be academic or a soft skill like studying or organizing materials.
Talk through the current state from both the parent/caregiver and teacher perspective.
Get clarity on expectations.
Set a goal - What do you/your child want to see changed?
Review what you can do to support your child at home.
Commit to some next steps (with a timeline).
5. Be engaged. Ask questions, take notes, and take pictures, whatever you need to do to get the most out of your conference time.
6. Set a time for follow-up. A conference is just one conversation in an ongoing dialogue about how to support your child. Parent-Teacher conferences don’t work as one-and-done engagements. And, by work, I mean serve as a way to further a child in their areas of strengths and meaningfully address learning opportunities. So, before you leave the conference, make a clear goal and discuss when and how you’re going to check in on progress towards the goal.
After the Conference
7. Share conference insights with your child. Relay not only what the teacher shared with you, but what you shared with the teacher. Get your child's input on the goals and next steps and share when next you'll be following up with their teacher.
8. Follow-up. The conference is not the end, but a beginning. Whether the follow-up is in person, over the phone, via email, or via zoom, commit to a 5-10 minute check-in to review what you discussed at your conference as well as progress towards your goal(s). Discuss:
The goal(s) you set.
What you as a family did/what your learner did to make progress toward the goal.
What changed (at home and at school).
Did your child meet the goal?
A parent-teacher conferences is a privilege; a chance to collaborate with another adult who cares about and is invested in the success of your child. May these tips help you to do your part to make your conferences productive and a space for meaningful connection, reflection, celebration, and planning.