Parenting: Importance of parent-teacher conferences

October 22, 2010

Michigan Prosecutor Kym Worthy has proposed legislation that would jail parents for three days if they fail to attend their children's Parent-Teacher conferences. That might seem a bit extreme, but most educators agree that good communication among parents and teachers is a key factor in how well children do in school.

I can't even add up how many Parent-Teacher conferences my husband and I have attended. But they are something we never miss. Our conference with Micah's fourth grade teacher is coming up in just a few weeks.

Our children's elementary school holds two different kinds of conferences during the school year. In the Fall, it's just the parents and teacher who meet to discuss the child's progress. In the Spring, it's what they call a child-involved conference, where the child fills out a self-assessment and then shares his observations and work with both his parents and teacher. I'm always amazed at how honest the boys have been in their self-assessments. They really do know what they're good at and what they need to work on.

A number of educators have shared tips on what makes a successful Parent-Teacher conference. Of course, the first step is that parents have to show up. And both parents and the teacher need to be prepared. For parents, that might mean writing down a list of your concerns and questions, so that you don't get distracted and can cover as much as possible in the short amount of time allocated. Ask your child if he or she has any questions they'd like you to ask.

Once you're with the teacher, be prepared to really listen to the teacher's answers, even if some of what he or she has to say may not be entirely positive about your darling angel. Your child's teacher probably spends more waking hours with your child than you do and they have LOTS of experience. I'll always be grateful to the teacher who convinced us to have one of our sons screened for ADD. I'd had my suspicions, but thanks to her, he was evaluated and treated and his success in school today is testament to that teacher's sound advice.

It's also important to try to keep the tone of the conference positive and cooperative. You all want your child to succeed. So, if a teacher says your child is having some issues, ask what you as a parent can do to help your child overcome them. If you get defensive, you're really not going to help your child in the long run. Many of the articles I've read suggest that both the parents and teacher start and end with positive comments. And if you feel the need for a follow-up conference, don't be afraid to ask if you can call, email or setup another conference at a later date.

My favorite part about Parent-Teacher conferences is when teachers share classroom moments with us that we've missed. We get insights into how our boys act when we're not around, and since both the teacher's goal and ours is help our children become productive, independent adults, the teachers' windows into this process are always enlightening.

Here are some additional articles you might want to read before heading to your next Parent-Teacher conference:'s_School

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