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Making the Most of the Parent-Teacher Conference

Along with pumpkin carvings, buying candy for Halloween and the raking of leaves, this time of year brings fall conferences with teachers.  It’s a time for parents to check in to see how their children are doing so far.

Chris Bethell is a San Francisco father of five (9-year-old, 11-year old, 18-year-old twins and 20-year old).    Over the years he has attended many parent-teacher conferences.

“The point of the conference is to team with teacher to get the best [children’s] performance overall,” says Bethell   “I like to try to shape and correct early on in the cycle. It’s dangerous to wait until the end of the year. “

Parents can receive very useful feedback on what are their child’s strengths and weaknesses.

Bethell gives this example.  One of his sons loves to read, but doesn’t do as well as he could on comprehension tests.   Bethel and the teacher pinpointed that it’s because his son tends to rush through a book or assignment.  Knowing that early on allows both parent and teacher to work with the child to take corrective action.

It’s a two-way street.

“You know more about your child than anyone at school. Talking with teacher about your child will help pave the way for your student to do well in class and will help you understand what is being taught in the classroom,” according to the Washington state’s Office of Education Ombudsman.

The office offers parents a handy guide with a list of suggested questions to prepare for a successful conference.   Some of the recommended tips:

Before the Conference:

  •  Find out your child’s questions and concerns about school
  •  Check progress reports, report cards and work your child has brought home
  •  Write a list of questions you want to ask the teachers
  •  Write down information about your child that the teacher should know, such as a family death, divorce, illness or new home
  •  If English is not your first language, have someone contact the school before the parent–teacher conference and ask for an interpreter

During the conference (which is usually scheduled for a set time) make sure you save some time at the end to ask your questions.  Remember to find out what it is your child should be working on, i.e. what are the goals for the year.

And if it hasn’t been made clear already, you should also ask the teachers what is the best way to reach them.  Email? Phone calls?

After the conference, check back in with your child’s teacher periodically.   Keep in mind you don’t need to wait for the end-of-the year conference to schedule another meeting.  You can request another conference at any time.

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Category: Education

Comments (1)

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  1. Chris Bethell says:

    I think a core component of this article and subject is the role of my wife. She is really the catalyst and dedicated caregiver that drives successful conferences. While we both participate in the actual conference process, Teri has a much deeper understanding of the school environment and the dynamics within the school. Quite frankly it’s her tireless efforts and commitment to ongoing participation with the kids that really drive sustainable success in regard to our children’s education.

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