The First Parent-Teacher Conference — What to Do

One of the first big moments of the new school year occurs when parent and teacher first meet early in the first term to discuss student performance.  Your child will have some grades, some variety of work on display, and some key initial impressions with the teacher. Depending upon the teacher, you may receive nothing more than nice words about your child, basic grade and curriculum info and a broad smile.  Other teachers may offer some more pointed observations, particularly if your child “bombed” a test or two.

What should parents ask at this conference?  What exactly is the agenda for the parent?

First and foremost, the parent should be on a fact-finding mission.  The parent sees what the child does at home in terms of homework and study, as well as hears feedback about the classroom interactions.  To determine how accurate the information may be requires getting as much out of the teacher as possible.  In this way, the parent finds out if the child has been hiding something important or “shading” the truth.  Also, the parent can determine if the child’s impressions of the teacher seem accurate.  Based on this “intel,” the parent can make corrections with the child as needed to get on the right academic path.

Second, the parent should look for areas of concern.  Is my child seriously struggling with a certain subject area?  Is my child doing what is necessary to master the material and do well on exams?  The teacher can provide useful feedback on these questions.  If the parent sees that the child is actually working hard at home but the results are not translating at school, that would indicate the need for outside intervention — tutoring — to right the ship and address potentially long-term problems.

Third, the parent should establish a working partnership with the teacher.  Let the teacher know that you as a parent are doing your job at home, but not overly so — providing the right structured environment and supervision but not in a controlling way, allowing the child sufficient amount of independence to take responsibility and become a more independent learner.  Then ask the teacher what else the parent can do to help the child improve, and importantly, ask that any signs of progress or regress get reported promptly to the parent through an email.  Leaving with a good line of open communication is a great outcome of the conference.

When you gather all the information from all of the teachers, if you believe your child is underperforming, has study skill issues, or maybe struggles with one or more subjects, we suggest meeting with an experienced tutoring and mentoring agency to get an assessment of what intervention might be appropriate.

If you have questions about your child’s academic performance, contact us — we can help.