Monday, September 10, 2012

Making the Most of Parent Teacher Conferences

This is the season for Parent-Teacher Conferences, which provide an opportunity for parents and teachers to get to know one another better, for parents to share their hopes and concerns for their child, and for teachers to share their perspectives about a child's academic progress, social development, and behavior.
Conferences represent one important part of the parent-school relationship. They are part of an ongoing dialogue and collaboration between parents and teachers on behalf of the development and well-being of our children. Below are a few tips to make the most of your conference:
1. Remember that parents and teachers are on the same team and both are committed to serving the best interests of children. Nothing is larger than our collective commitment to those children. Some of the news that is shared during conferences is wonderful and confirming, while some of it may be difficult to hear and hard to believe. Entering a parent-teacher conference can produce a measure of anxiety in parents and teachers alike. It's worth thinking about this element of anxiety before entering the conference and making a conscious effort to place each other at ease.
2. Parents have unique and important insights into their child as a person and as a learner. These insights are helpful to teachers as they provide appropriate support and challenge for each child. Parent and teachers alike need to acknowledge, leverage, and even celebrate these insights. In advance of the conference, it is helpful for parents to think about and come prepared to talk about what you know about your child that you want the teacher to understand.
3. Teachers have unique and important insights into each student as a person and as a learner. As a parent, when you go to talk about your child with the teacher, you may be aware that there are things that you do not know about your child and his/her life at school.
4. Recognize that children learn differently, develop (cognitively, socially, physically, emotionally) at different rates, refine their skills at different times, have different interests, and demonstrate different talents and abilities. No two children are the same. Similarly, as educators we expect to see varying strengths and challenges within each child. Children are works-in-progress and we need to give them the space to learn and grow-including by accepting their unique challenge areas as well as their unique strengths.
5. Minimize surprises at the conference. Since conferences are just one part-albeit an important part-of the parent-school alliance, it is important not to saddle the conference with more weight than it can bear. That is, whenever possible, parents and teachers should be communicating on a regular basis so that major surprises-whether academic or social-have been discussed beforehand.

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