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Parent-teacher conferences are important for your child’s school success. Yet, a lot of parents avoid them, do not like going to them, or do not know what to say to their child’s teacher.
But, after reading Talking To Your Child’s Teacher, I know you are now more comfortable with parent-teacher interactions. However, sometimes we need a little more information and/or inspiration to make us a pro at something. As always, I am here to help! So grab a beverage (whatever is your fancy), read, and take notes on how to master your next parent-teacher conference.
How do I prepare for my parent-teacher conference?
Preparing for your parent-teacher conference is very important if you want the meeting to be successful. Teachers only have a set time for conferences, so you want to maximize the time that you have allotted. To prepare, make a list of the topics that you want to discuss. During this time, try to stay specific and not ask a general question like how is my child doing? This question can be very vague and you might not receive the answer that you are looking for. Keep in mind, you want to be direct. To get ideas about what questions you might ask, think about your child’s homework assignments…how are they doing with them? If your child’s teacher sends home a communication or behavior sheet, do any questions come to mind when you review it? Is your child exhibiting any new behaviors at home? Does your child seem happy when they get home? These are all questions to think about to get ideas about what you might want to ask.
The following are additional questions that you might want to ask:
What concepts has my child mastered?
What concepts are they having challenges with?
How is their behavior at school?
Does my child turn in their homework assignments?
How does my child interact with the other students?
Where is my child developmentally?
What grade level is my child on?
What can I do to help at home?
What modifications and/or accommodations are being made?
Additionally for older children and children with higher cognitive abilities, you may want to get their input. This discussion can generate more questions that you might want to ask your child’s teacher.
What happens during the parent-teacher conference?
During the parent-teacher conference, teachers generally will review your child’s grades, progress reports, behavior and anything else that is a concern for your child. While the teacher is speaking, listen and take notes because you may have additional questions to add to your list or the teacher may have already answered some of your questions. When it is your turn to talk, speak up! A parent-teacher conference is a two-way conservation. It is not just the teacher telling you what is wrong with your child. When you speak, focus on the most important topics first (i.e., learning, academics, progress, behavior). It can be very easy to veer off subject and speak about less important things. If you have more time, then you can ask any additional questions. Also, remember at the end of the conference to exchange contact information if you have not already done so.
What should I do after the parent-teacher conference?
After the conference, communicate with your child (depending on age and cognitive ability) about what took place and the next steps that you and your child’s teacher will take. This is important because your child will see that you and their teacher are working together. This signifies that their education is important and you are in contact with their teacher. You want to maintain a strong parent-teacher relationship throughout the school year, even though the conference may take place at the beginning of the year.
Should my child attend the parent-teacher conference?
This can be a personal decision. Some schools suggest that students attend (depending on the age of the child) and other times they prefer not for the child to attend for a portion of the conference (depending on what is discussed). However, your child attending a conference can help whatever issues your child may be having, especially if there are issues with the teacher. If you feel that you child is of age and their cognitive ability is where they would understand what is being discussed, then there is no harm in having them attend.
What is the difference between an IEP meeting and a parent-teacher conference?
While the two may seem similar, they are quite different. An IEP meeting is required by federal law at least once a year to discuss your child’s individual education plan. At an IEP meeting, you will discuss your child’s current functioning and develop goals and objectives to address any needs and/or deficits. During IEP meetings, you will also discuss accommodations and/or modifications to use in the classroom and during standardized testing. Federal law also requires school personnel who service your child to attend the meeting (this creates the IEP team). A parent-teacher conference is less formal than an IEP meeting. They are not regulated by any federal guidelines and are not required. However, parent-teacher conferences are still very important and you can discuss the same topics with your child’s teacher that you would address in an IEP meeting.
Remember the Be’s
I’m sure you heard the phrase, “you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.” This can also apply to your parent-teacher relationship. Always remember the ultimate goal is your child’s success. So take note of these “Be’s” and your parent-teacher conference will go smoothly and be even more successful.
Be on time. You do not want your conference cut short because you were late. Conferences can be scheduled before or after yours.
Be patient. Wait for your turn to speak. This is a two-way conversation, so listen and then speak. Listen and then speak some more.
Be prepared. Bring a pen and paper to take notes. Jot down any questions you may have.
Be calm and relax. Try to speak to your child’s teacher like he or she was a friend.
Be polite. Remember teachers generally want to help your child succeed.
Be inquisitive. Ask questions about anything you do not understand, services to help your child and things you can do at home.
Be positive. If you see the conference going in a negative direction, stop and turn it around. Remember this is about your child’s success and not any personal issues.
Be aware. Sometimes other school personnel (i.e., administration, teachers, therapists) may attend the conference at the request of the parent or teacher.
Be thankful. If you feel the conference went well, thank your child’s teacher after the conference or send a thank you note. This will strengthen your parent-teacher relationship!
If you follow these tips, you will master your next parent-teacher conference. Continue to work with your child’s teacher throughout the school year because when parents and teachers work together, the results are always better.