I hope this email finds you and your family doing well. I’m reaching out today to see if we can schedule a conference about Johnny. I feel this conversation will be better handled in person instead of through an email.
4th Grade Teacher
Some School, USA
Parent/teacher conferences are typically uncomfortable, stressful, and filled with uncertainty. If you’ve gotten an email like the above, you know this firsthand. Often, as a parent, it can feel like you are being blindsided, or even attacked with some behavioral or academic issue you didn’t know existed. Or, it could simply be your child has a teacher that values communicating in person rather than through email. Either way, to help you get the most of a conference, I’ve outlined some hints and tips below.
Prior to the Conference:
Ask your child how they are feeling about school.
Give your child the opportunity to talk about what’s on their mind.
If it’s age appropriate, tell your child that you are meeting with their teacher.
Make a list of things you may want to address during the meeting. Some examples are, strongest and weakest subject area, homework, participation in class, do they seem happy when they are at school, and is there anything you can do at home to help ensure success.
During the Conference:
Stay calm and listen to understand, not to just reply. As the teacher begins the conference, listen and understand what is being conveyed to you. Even if it’s difficult to hear and you don’t agree with it, being attentive will serve you well when it’s your turn to speak. By doing this, you can ask the same courtesy be given to you when it’s your turn to speak. I’ve found it helpful to take notes during the discussion.
Ask the teacher to repeat anything you don’t understand or provide you with examples of less than acceptable work. Oftentimes, significant information can be thrown at you in a short period. Therefore, take a few minutes and ask for clarification so you can provide informed feedback during the conference. Do not be timid about asking for clarification.
Ask to see work samples, rubrics, or expectations. As a parent, you have the right to ask the teacher to justify their statements. But, do so in a respectful and professional manner. If there is an academic issue, ask to see samples of the “subpar” work, along with grading rubrics and instructions for the assignments. If you have a young child, hopefully you are keeping up with their work and being an active participant in their education. However, if they are an older learner, upper middle grades and high school, you’ve hopefully started letting them navigate this journey themselves. Yet, you are still their greatest advocate and cheerleader.
Ask to see behavioral or disciplinary data. If your meeting is to address a behavioral issue, ask to see documentation on what has occurred to prompt the meeting. Then, ask what interventions are already in place from any previous instances. If you are not accepting of these, or know other strategies that work for your child, suggest these to the teacher. Most of the time teachers are happy to accommodate and use the successful strategies you’ve discovered and implemented.
Close with positivity and hopefulness. If the meeting has been positive and you feel good about your discussion, thank the teacher for their time and commitment to your child’s success. This is also a good time to ask the teacher for some positive comments and strengths of child if they haven’t already been addressed. If the meeting has not been positive and you do not get the resolution you’d hoped for, ask to continue the discussion with an administrator. Just because a meeting didn’t go as planned, don’t assume that a solution can’t be found.
After the Conference:
Be sure to discuss the meeting with your child and communicate the highlights.
Discuss the positive pieces in depth while being direct about the problematic areas.
Make sure your child knows the plan you and the teacher made for their success.
Regularly follow up with the teacher to ensure continual improvements. Possibly consider sending a thank you card.