It has been decades since I was a school student and the anxious, nail-biting moments of parent teacher meetings have increased in magnitude as a parent. In some instances, it was indeed distressing to actually observe the parent being put on stand for the students’ lack of performance and poor results.
Should it not be the other way around? Is it not the teachers’ job to teach and the parents’ job to provide a loving and nurturing platform for the child to get the most out of the school experience?
I attended yet another parent teacher meeting at school today to meet my daughter’s new teachers and receive feedback on academic work and behavior since school reopened a few weeks ago. The meeting was to “to understand expectations, make plans, set goals and establish the relationship to work together for the success of your child.”
Facing our child’s education is daunting. The temptation is to dash in with a few questions or issues in mind, and to let the teacher take charge of the session. Most teachers seek communicate academic assessments, progress reports, behavioral issues, to impressions about social interactions with classmates. Unless your child is a genius, most parents leave feeling concerned and disappointed. The most common feedback is “the student has enormous potential which is not being tapped and how they have to work harder.”
The parent-teacher meetings can be a valuable starting point from which to implement measures essential to your child’s development and education. Here are some tips to make these sessions less stressful and more valuable:
- Talk to your child: before going to school for the meeting: Go through the schoolwork with your child to understand what has been done in school and your child’s work. Ask for input on any problem areas or academic issues that you child might be facing. Also do get information all that is positive. Ask your children if there is anything happening at school that he would like to share with you.
- Prepare your agenda: with the list of teachers and specific questions for each and what you need to discuss with them. Specific concerns you have about academics, homework, how classroom time is structured, socializing, music, art, or athletics. Bringing your own agenda to a parent-teacher meeting ensures that the issues foremost on your mind are discussed. If you are not proactive about organizing your thoughts and setting goals for what you need to communicate and learn during this meeting, your concerns can be overlooked.
- Be relaxed and greet the teacher warmly. Always remember that the teacher is your ally in your child’s success.
- Listen: Let the teacher direct the conversation and listen to the information shared which might answer some of your questions. Expect to hear about your child’s problem areas and be prepared to ask how you can help her.
- Take notes: Just short keywords that will help you remember the discussion.
- Do not get upset: Be prepared to follow up non-defensively on criticisms or concerns by asking more detailed questions. This is merely feedback and can be valuable as a reality check
- Speak up: Even if the teacher does not ask, speak up and provide your observations and any concerns.
- Be aware of the time: Avoid lengthy discussions as there are other parents waiting their turn. Just stick to relevant discussions. End the conference by summing up decisions you’ve made together.
As a parent, I know how hard it is to have to meet with a teacher, especially when your child is not doing his or her best in class or when the teacher is arrogant or insensitive. Just as a teacher should prepare for the conference, so should you. Teachers need your help as they educate your children. And no one knows your child better than you. Make these sessions work for you and your child’s success in school and beyond.