Parent-Teacher Conferences: Make the Most of Short Conferences
Have you attended a cattle call, I mean high school parent-teacher conferences lately? You have 2 hours to meet with as many teachers as possible. The teachers are all sitting at desks in the gym with the world’s smallest timers. Do you stand in a really long line for the math teacher? Or lose your spot and run over to the Spanish teacher? Crap – where are the English teachers?? And heaven forbid, you have more than 1 kid!
Parent-teacher conferences at the high school level are crazy! When I taught, some years I spoke to parents from the moment the conferences started until the moment parents were kicked out. Other years, I had leisurely chats with a few parents and spent the rest of the time grading.
How do you talk to the teachers you really want to talk to? And get to the meaty stuff?? How do you get your child the help he or she needs? In 3 minutes?
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Here are my best tips for maximizing parent-teacher conferences! I’ve created a planning guide for you, complete with a space for your child’s grades, 20+ possible questions you can ask, and a sheet to take notes on. It’s free and so.worth.it. Click on the button below, peeps!
How to Make the Most of Short Parent-Teacher Conferences
Check your child’s grades before attending
Most school districts have an online system that allows parents to see grades. Check the grades and focus on the ones you are most worried about. Look for low grades or grades that have dropped suddenly. Depending on how much you can see (and understand), look to see if your teen has a lot of missing work. You can usually check attendance (and tardies!) as well.
Plan which classes to focus on
While it would be great to talk to all your child’s teachers, that’s most likely not possible. And in most cases, not necessary. If your child has a solid A or B in a class and the teacher has never contacted you about behavior, you can safely skip that teacher and meet with another.
Decide ahead of time which 3-4 classes you want to focus on. Checking your son’s grades may make this decision for you. Maybe you’ve been e-mailing back and forth with a teacher? Or your daughter is working on a giant research paper and you just want some more information about it. Just go with your gut.
Decide what to ask
This is key! Know what you’re going to ask before you even walk in the door. This will allow you to move the conference toward your areas of concern (which may not be the same as the teacher’s.) In the worksheet I created, I list 20+ questions you can ask teachers. I also highly recommend prioritizing the questions in case you only get to ask 1 or 2.
Some questions to consider:
- Is my child giving his best effort?
- How much time should she be spending on your class each night?
- How is he doing socially in class?
- What can I do at home to support what you’re doing in the classroom?
- How would you prefer I contact you? How quickly can I expect a response?
Decide What to Share
There are times when you NEED to tell the teachers about issues at home. Often these events are impacting your child in school. Knowing about these helped me so much as a teacher to support the child and make accommodations if necessary. The big three the school should know about are:
- Health problems (student or family member)
- Death of a loved one
You don’t have to go into super detail. “My husband and I are currently separated and Sarah is having a hard time adjusting.” Or “John’s sister is undergoing medical treatment that takes a lot of our time and energy.”
You are much more likely to hear from teachers again if they know there are outside factors. (Seriously, I would bend over backward for families I knew were going through a rough time. It’s worth mentioning.)
Bring paper and pen
This seems obvious, but most people forget on their way out the door. As a teacher, I always tried to have extra pens available for parents, but they tended to walk away early on. So, be prepared! Hopefully, this will help you get the most of those super short parent conferences!