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Handling the Parent-Teacher Conference Without Tears

Once or twice a year, your child’s school will most likely have routine scheduled conferences with the teachers.  This is an opportunity to discuss your child’s progress, mutual goals, issues, and any other issues that might have arisen during the school year.  Parents sometimes worry that they themselves are being judged, that they might ask a silly question, or just have general anxiety like they feel before visiting the doctor’s offices – anticipating that something is wrong.

If this sounds like you, remind yourself of the positive nature of these meetings – you are in partnership with the teacher.  You are the expert on your child and family and will have helpful information that you can share with the teacher.  At the same time, the teacher can offer a glimpse into your child’s day to day life in school that might help you at home.  Here are few suggestions to make this meeting go smoothly and offer the best possible outcome for all involved.

  1. Write up any questions or concerns ahead of time and prioritize the list, sometimes these meetings are very short and you might run out of time.

  2. Arrive on time and remember to breathe before the meeting, stay as calm as possible – remember the word “partnership”!

  3. If there is a problem, get very clear and write down all the things you want to say beforehand.  Try to come in with a solution, if at all possible.  Giving the teacher a starting point might help alleviate the issue sooner.

  4. Start with positives first, then move on to negative aspects.  Hopefully, the teacher will do the same.

  5. Ask for clarity if something the teacher has said is confusing or doesn’t make sense – make sure you are on the same page at the end of the meeting for the rest of the term or school year for your child’s academic goals.

  6. Don’t just concentrate on grades, homework, and academic issues – also ask about social aspects of your child’s day at school.  Yes, the learning in the classroom is paramount, but so is making friends, learning to share and deal with their peers.

After the meeting, discuss it with your child – even if they were there for the meeting – have a debrief of sorts and talk about the goals and strategies that were just put into place so they can be a part of the process.  This will help them as they grow older and must take more and more responsibility for their own education.   Consider sending the teacher a note of thanks, especially if the meeting proved helpful or you sense a real sense of thoughtfulness or commitment to your child’s education and well-being.

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