Preparing for an Effective Parent-Teacher Conference

This blog was written by Counseling@Northwestern Program Director, Stephannee Standefer

Parents have varying goals when they go to parent-teacher conferences. They may want to advocate for their child, understand the teacher’s expectations, or learn about their child’s progress. Some parents may not receive the information they need because of the short amount of time scheduled for the conference, which is often only about 10 minutes. This can cause frustration and a disconnect between parent and teacher.

 To help you make the most of this time, here are fives things you can do to prepare for an effective parent-teacher conference.

  1. 1. Have a realistic goal for the meeting.

    You will not be able to fully cover all the fine points of Common Core learning or the rubric for every assignment in 10 minutes. You will, however, be able to see how your child has done in the class so far. You may also learn how the teacher grades or assesses your child. Being armed with this information will put you in a better place to help your child achieve success moving forward.

  2. 2. What’s done is done.

    Don’t expect to go into the conference and have a teacher change a grade. Instead, gain a better understanding of what your child needs to do to earn a better grade on the next assignment. Find out how expectations are communicated to students and help your child understand how to meet those expectations.

  3. 3. Impressions matter.

    Just as we are assessing teachers, they are assessing us. Going into conferences and reminding teachers that your taxes pay their salaries does not win favor for your child in that teacher’s class. Instead, try to find ways to collaborate. Ask the teacher for suggestions on how you can support your child at home. Establish a relationship with the teacher so that you feel comfortable asking questions in the future.

  4. 4. Know the limitations of the situation.

    When I spoke with my daughter’s teacher, I learned that the teacher saw more than 100 students per day, five days a week. This is beyond the teacher’s control and therefore not something I needed to discuss in my precious 10-minute conference.

  5. 5. Make lemonade out of lemons.

    Let’s face it, there are some teachers out there who checked out and are no longer passionate about teaching. There may also be teachers who simply do not like your child and vice versa. Recognize this as a powerful life lesson for your child and coach him or her on ways to work in a difficult environment and with difficult relationships.

Parent-teacher conferences are a great way for parents to learn about their children. Sometimes we find out great things (my daughter participates in her English lit class quite a bit and her teacher really enjoys her contributions). Sometimes we learn not-so-great things (she threw a water bottle across a room and it spilled over some books that now need to be replaced.) And other times, we learn that our child is in a class that really is as boring as she claims.

As a parent in parent-teacher conferences, I have experienced both positive and negative meetings. But what I learned at the meetings allowed me to ask my daughter questions that help me understand her and help her be successful in her world. That’s always a great use of 10 minutes.