5 Step Guide to the Parent Teacher Conference for Elementary School Parents
Parent teacher conferences are one of the most stressful parts of having a school age child. Right up there with whether or not the school lunch is ingestible.
You just sorta feel like you’re sending your little sweetie off to kindergarten, where a complete stranger is going to judge him. Sure they're skilled educators, trained to assess children and all of that, but that doesn't mean that hearing that little Johnny's outgoing personality is also partially to blame for the fact that he can't spell worth a darn isn't hard.
I've sent two Dudes to kindergarten so I get it.
And, as a former classroom teacher, I’ve also been charged with judging so let me give you some tips to make that first parent teacher conference less scary for everyone.
Elementary School Parents’ Guide to the Parent Teacher Conference
1. Don't get your panties in a bunch. Not until you have to anyway. Teachers interact with parents of all types. They get the if-you-ever-call-here-again-I'm-gonna-bust-you-up kind (real talk guys, I can’t even repeat the things parents have said to me when I’ve called to simply introduce myself) and they get the I'm-going-to-be-joining-my-child-in-class-daily-to-monitor-his-progress-and-micromanage-his-breathing kind too. It's a pretty vast spectrum and they really can't know what kind of parent you are until they get a chance to really get to know you. So, don't jump all bad on them when they call you to discuss an issue, and don't jump all bad on them if they don't. It's best to just let them know the level and the method of interaction you prefer to have. Then, if they consistently fail to do as you ask, feel free to bunch those panties right up. Politely of course.
2. Remember, communication goes both ways. Just like you expect them to let you know if there is an issue in the classroom, you should remember to do the same for them. If there is a problem at home; a change in schedule or something that may have upset your child, it's a good idea to give Teach a heads up. I mean, if Johnny is gonna be falling asleep during science, it's maybe a good idea to just shoot off an email to let her know that it's because
you took him to the American Idol concert last night he was up all night, um, coughing so she doesn't just think he's a total science slacker.
3. Listen to your kid. Before you call or write or turn to your school’s gossip mill to find out “who that teacher thinks she is”, do everyone a favor and have a chat with your child. Sure, the part about the unicorn showing up during social studies is probably false, but the part where he tells you that he hasn’t raised his hand to speak in class all year because he’s afraid he’ll be teased is probably gospel. Kids are super perceptive and, though they may sometimes be inaccurate with their details, they can often shed light on a situation that would’ve remained all dark-agey if no one ever asked them to weigh in.
4. Ask for action items. So Teach reports that little Johnny can’t read to save his life. Sure, you freak clean out at this news, but then what?! Panicking is pretty much never the answer, just like blame and shame aren’t gonna really work for you either. The best thing you can do for Johnny’s academic career, social standing, and your arrest record is to NOT attack the teacher and instead ask her what you can do to change this, followed closely by what she plans to do to help. You need an action plan that you, Johnny, and Teach can all partner up on to make happen.
5. Remember: It’s all about the kids. That’s why you’re there, that’s why Teach is there, and that’s what everyone should focus on at the meeting. So she was your 5th grade teacher and you’re pretty sure she hated you? Get over it because
she’s probably too old to even remember you holding grudges, being uncompromising, and not pulling your weight in the partnership isn’t going to help little Johnny figure out the difference between a contraction and a conjunction. And don’t be afraid to speak up if you don’t feel like Teach is doing her part. Being an advocate for your child sometimes means that you are going to embarrass yourself in public be uncomfortable, but it’s worth it. Totally.
Have a parent-teacher conference horror story, or HAPPY story to share?! We’d love to hear it!