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Superintendent's Report - Tips for Parent/Teacher Conferences

By Evans, Todd

October 10, 2017

Parent-teacher conferences are a special opportunity for communication to occur between parents and the school. It is important to recognize that teachers and parents have the same goal. We all want students to experience success. Some preparation will help to make this time as productive as possible.

• Perceptions from a teacher’s standpoint and from a parent’s standpoint can be very different. In order to have a successful conference, it is important to put some thought and preparation into the conference. Go with a purpose or with a specific objective you want to accomplish. Know that you are encouraged to be an active participant in your child’s school experience.

• Time is a limiting factor for conferences. If you have a scheduled conference time, try to be a little early. If the teacher has finished early with his/her previous appointments, this might allow for extra time if needed. There is always more information to discuss than time allowed. Prepare to finish on time to allow the teacher to prepare for the next conference.

• If the conference does not involve an appointment, sometimes called “cafeteria-style,” please be aware of others that might be waiting. Ten minutes is usually too long for a conference when there is not an appointment with a time allotment. If there is a special situation that will require more time, set an appointment to visit when others are not waiting. This allows for adequate communication, but provides the necessary time.

• Begin with a positive exchange, but be ready to discuss the most important issues early in the conversation. Focus on understanding situations and finding solutions to potential disputes. Don’t sugarcoat issues. Most people avoid conflict, but if there is an undesirable situation, it needs to be discussed. If there are questions or concerns about grading, curriculum, homework, peer interaction, etc., ask the difficult questions.

• Pleasantries, common interests and socializing are important to the parent-teacher relationship, but in consideration of the time factor, it is important to maintain the focus on what happens during the school day. Even though coaches are often teachers, these are not parent/coach conferences.

• Come prepared with specific questions. If parents are interested in grading, it is important to understand the math behind the determination of grades. There are many acceptable, but different ways to determine a student’s grades. It is important to have an understanding of the process that is used to better understand what happens in the classroom.

• It will take effort, especially when our kids are involved, but try to leave the emotions out. The more emotions are involved, the less likely that effective communication will occur.

As a school district, we invest considerable resources to provide for parent-teacher conferences. Parents are encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity and to maximize the experience. Teachers are encouraged to use this opportunity to communicate and to facilitate teamwork to see that students are successful.

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