I have been teaching various grade levels over the last seventeen years. These levels range from Nursery School to Grade 10. Having years of experience, I have had the opportunity to participate to numerous parent teacher meetings. Through the years, I have noticed that most parents are not quite sure how to get the most out of a parent teacher meeting. That being said, I have decided to share a few helpful tips with parents in need of guidance.
- Be prepared to ask questions. Write down all the questions that pop into your mind the days prior to your child's parent teacher meeting. This way, you will not forget anything and you will efficiently use the time allowed for your meeting. It is always a good time to discuss health issues and your child’s needs. If you have questions about the curriculum or the topics that will be seen at his grade level, feel free to ask them.
- Have your child present for this meeting. This meeting’s purpose is your child. Have him present so he can be involved, take responsibility and understand what is asked or expected of him as well as how to improve his academic performance. He should also be there to hear all the good things his teacher sees in him. Good or bad, he should know what is going on in order to help him become a responsible learner. Also, it is always a good time for your child to bring up his concerns and ask questions.
- Don’t focus only on the negative. Your child may have some weaknesses regarding his academic performance or his behavior. As any human being, he also has good qualities, abilities and talents. He has dealt with success on several occasions so don’t disregard these strong points. If you only focus on the “bad stuff” your child will see himself as a failure and may even stop trying, thinking he is unable to achieve anything good. See the weaknesses as learning opportunities that your child will benefit from in the long run.
- Don’t leave a meeting without hearing about your child’s strengths. Some teachers have a more traditional approach. They seem to think that a parent teacher meeting’s main purpose is to pinpoint the weaknesses and the things that your child must work on in order to progress and succeed. Never leave a parent teacher meeting on a sour note. Every child has the right to hear compliments, praise and what his strengths are.
- Don’t feel responsible for your child’s weaknesses or mistakes. It doesn’t matter what age your child is, there are decisions and choices that he makes on his own. Unless special circumstances affect him and influence his decisions, you can’t feel guilty about it. In some cases, your support will be needed; in others, your child will have to learn from his mistakes the hard way. When you think about it, your parents told you many times not to touch something hot, did it stop you from getting burned? Your child is on a learning path and will not only learn from his mistakes through logical consequences but will also grow from this process.
As an example, if your child climbs to get cookies from the cookie jar that is located on the fridge and makes a mess, doesn’t it make sense that he should clean up his mess as long as it is safe?
- Always listen to both sides of the story. Your child may be 7 years old or 13 years old, it doesn’t matter, if he knows he will be in trouble, his story may differ from reality. I do not say that you should not believe your child, but don’t go into the fighting mode with the teacher, listen to what he has to say, then make your decision. Never show your child that you loath or are frustrated by the teacher, otherwise you may be in for the ride of your life. You see, your child should see both his parents and teacher as a team focused on his need and helping him as a learner.
- Be supportive at all times. I know that you may not always agree with your child’s teacher’s views or strategies, but never forget that you are both involved in your child’s life to help him grow as a responsible learner. If you are a team, your child will not play you against each other. A good way to avoid that is, if your child comes home frustrated, communicate your concerns to his teacher. He will then communicate with you and either explain or assist you in order to provide the help that your child needs.
- Stay in touch with your child’s teacher. If you have any questions, big or small, your child’s teacher will be glad to help you out. Ask about homework and assignments. If your child has an agenda, sign it every day to show the teacher that you are aware of your child’s homework and that you checked that it was completed. An agenda may also be a good way to send notes to school, as a loose note may be lost more easily.
- Your child’s need must be addressed. If your child is involved with specialists or a resource teacher, ask to meet with them as well either during separate times or with the homeroom teacher. Either way, you have the right to be made aware of your child’s progress and weaknesses that must be addressed. Never forget to ask about his successes.
- Don’t allow yourself to be intimidated. Some teachers’ approaches may intimidate you. They may even use words that you may not understand. Ask them nicely to use familiar terms that will help you understand their message. If you feel at any time that a teacher is condescending or downright rude, I encourage you to meet with the administration as soon as possible. The teacher’s job is to be your teammate in your child’s education. There is no room for intimidation!
- Don’t let time be your enemy. If you feel that you did not have enough time to discuss all that needed to be dealt with during your child’s parent teacher meeting, feel free to ask for another meeting or to continue the discussion on the phone. If you forgot to ask a few questions of discuss some of your concerns, feel free to communicate with your child’s teacher and meet again if needed.
Your child’s parent teacher meeting is an important one as it is a time where you can use helpful information and strategies to help your child grow, learn and become a responsible learner. Don’t wonder any more about how to get the most out of a parent teacher meeting!