Making the Most of Parent-Teacher Conferences

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It is no secret that parental involvement is associated with higher student achievement outcomes. In fact, a recent report from Southwest Educational Development Laboratory[i] found that regardless of family income or background, students with involved parents are more likely to earn higher grades and test scores, enroll in higher-level programs, and graduate and go on to post-secondary education. It makes sense then for parents to be as involved in their children’s academics as they can, which includes communication with teachers.

So as a teacher who works and talks with lots of other teachers, I am here to offer some tips on how to make the most of a parent-teacher conference and your relationship with your child’s academics.

What should you talk to the teacher about?

Progress – This is the obvious one. You want to know how your child is performing both on day-to-day work in the classroom and on assessments given throughout the school year. Most schools offer access to the grades through some type of online portal, so the emphasis should be on more qualitative feedback, like their work habits in class.

Assignments and assessments – If possible, ask to see examples of your child’s work. Chances are you don’t get to see much of it at home and it could give you a much clearer picture on why your child is performing how he or she is.

Support learning at home – A lot of parents are torn about how involved they should be in their children’s school work and home work. My opinion is that is better to err on the side of being too involved than not involved enough. Regardless of whether or not you can help your child with the academic portion of his or her work, you can help him or her build strong organization and study habits. Furthermore, talk to your child’s teacher about what else you could do at home to support self-study, catch-up, or enrichment specific to your child.

Support learning at school – Similarly, be sure to ask about what can be done in the classroom to help your child: is there additional practice work they can be doing in class or at home for catch-up or enrichment? Are there accommodations that may help my child, like sitting in front of the class, or working with a resource teacher?

Make the most of the communication you have with your child’s educators. Grade reports and your child’s feedback only offer so much perspective (and a slightly biased one, at that) on what your child’s school experience is really like. Remember that you, your child, and your child’s teacher and support staff (and us at Silver Oak, if you choose!) are all a team working towards the same goal: your child’s success.

 

[i] Henderson, A. T., & Mapp, K. L. (2002). A new wave of evidence: The impact of school, family, and community connections on student achievement. Austin, TX: Southwest Educational Development Laboratory