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Teacher Conferences

teacher-students-globeParents, teachers, students…it’s hard to tell who is more nervous about those conferences. They’re seldom long enough, and often not private enough, for deep conversation. So how can you get the most out of them?

  • Avoid surprises. Good teachers know better than to raise issues for the first time at conferences. If something important is raised for the first time at a quick, formal conference, calmly say, “I know your time for contacting parents is limited, but I wish we’d started addressing this earlier. The best way to contact me is ____. Now let’s see what we can do…”

Similarly, smart parents avoid surprising the teacher. You don’t want to be the parent the teachers dread. The solution? If you have a major concern, email when the concern arises (teachers can’t usually answer the phone while teaching). Conciseness counts. Give the teacher the option of calling or emailing in return.

  • Bring a few “solutions.” Teachers need set rules for all students to maintain classroom community and safety. However, they may appreciate a few key strategies or solutions that work for your child. One of my kids, for example, tended to be a bit bossy with other children. I suggested, “Mention that you’ll be letting me know.” It worked. After a call home about numerous trips to the nurse’s office, I said, “Rather than ill, I think it’s can’t-sit-still. Is there by any chance an errand that would involve a long, long walk most days, without being unfair to other students?” That worked too.

Remember, the Kidtelligent system has customized learning and homework style suggestions for each of the 16 Kidtelligent styles. Bring 3-5 of the best ones for your child to the conference and politely ask, “Might any of these work in your classroom?”

  • Involve your child. Some schools have student-lead conferences—students choose the assignments and other topics they wish to show their parents, or the teacher guides the class in preparing a portfolio for the conference. Other schools discourage the presence of students. Either way, ask your child what he or she hopes the teacher will discuss with you. What have they enjoyed in class? What do they hope to do better? What might help?

Conference time could then be used for focusing on how your particular child might best thrive in a particular classroom. Where is school working? Where are there concerns? Try to back away from test data and get information on enthusiasm, engagement, cooperation, and creativity—the real keys to school success that tests don’t measure.

  • Choose your battles. You want the school to pay attention when you’re really concerned about something. The behavior and academic performance of my own children definitely changed from classroom to classroom, and I learned quickly to ask, “Why do you think your teacher did that?” or “What’s your plan for next time?”

I can only think of a half dozen times in their combined 26 years of public school that I found myself contacting a teacher with a concern. If your child is struggling academically, or if you suspect bullying or other major problems, your total will climb much higher. However, see what can be solved at home, through email, through helping your child understand the basic tension between her rights in the classroom and her responsibilities to work hard and help everyone learn!

Jane Kise, Ed.D. – Educational Advisor and Consultant, 
Jane  writes an insightful post every Tuesday for Kidtelligent. Jane is an educational consultant, specializing in teambuilding, coaching, and school staff development. She is also the coauthor of more than 20 books. Jane’s website  is  www.janekise.com