When I had children in school, I initially
did not look forward to parent-
teacher conferences. And, I notice that today, many parents
contact and some parents avoid it all together. My belief
is that to not take
advantage of parent-teacher conferences is a mistake.
The good news is that most of our Miami-Dade County school
welcome parent-teacher conferences. In fact, many host
them a couple of
times a year in an effort to involve parents in their
Unfortunately, some parents feel that if their child
is not having problems
then there is no need to be involved in a parent-teacher
Well, my experiences suggest that this is one of the
best times to go to your
child's school and meet your child's teacher.My experiences
also suggest that there are two types of parent-teacher
One I will call the "PROBLEMATIC" parent-teacher
The Second I will call the "PLEASANT" parent-teacher
A "PLEASANT" conference will let the teacher
know that you are
interested and that you are available in case problems
do arise with your
It is an opportunity for you to see what the teacher
is like, get an idea of
what goes on in your child's classroom, and maybe even
get a new
perspective on your child's strengths and weaknesses.
It also will make you feel more comfortable in the school
building and with
the teacher, so if a problem does arise, you'll feel better
about coming to the
school to talk about it.
Most of our schools offer conferences at a variety of
times during the day
and during the evening, but if you can't come during one
of those times, you
should feel free to call and schedule an alternative date
As I stated, initially, I was uncomfortable about coming
to my daughters'
school. I was uncomfortable for a couple of reasons: The
first reason was
that it had been a long time since I had been in school
and the second, and
probably the most profound reason was that my experiences
had not been positive.
During my first experience I was especially uncomfortable
and a bit put out
because the teacher had requested the conference and I
knew that there was
a problem with one of my children.
But I put my attitude in check and went to the school
with the thought of
treating the teacher as I wanted to be treated. You know
what? My first
experience turned out to be a favorable one because I
ran in to a
"good teacher" who immediately put me at ease.
She was a consummate professional.
The truth is, in fact, most of the teachers I encountered
in their approach to my visits to my children's schools.
So my invitation to those of you who may visit your child
's school is
this - know that a good impression by you can do nothing
but help your
I would encourage you to treat the visit with your child's
teacher as you
would your visit with another professional, such as your
doctor or your
Now, here are some things that I gleaned from Radford
educational studies Professor Betty Dore, that I think
will make your
conference go well.
Be on time. "Even though people all
over the world say teachers have it easy, realize that
they are very, very busy. They have 25 other students-in
some case's 125" other students that they must nurture.
End on time. If your conference is scheduled in a time
slot, with others
following you, stay on the subject and, if you need more
This should go without saying, but permit
me to say it anyway. Dress
neatly; get rid of the gum; take off that baseball cap.
Use common sense in creating a good first impression.
Have questions you want to ask written
down. It is okay to carry a pad
and it is okay to take notes.
Be a good listener.
Also make suggestions. You can offer insights into what
will work with
Don't compare your child with other children:
("Bobbie did this and got
an 'A'" - my child did the same thing and got a 'D'").
It is tempting to do
otherwise but let me invite you to be concerned only about
Don't wait until the last minute to make an appointment
and then get
bent out of shape if no time slots are available. Call
ahead, our teachers
will be glad to work around your schedule.
Don't take other siblings along if you can help it. Three
of four brothers
and sisters can be distracting and keep both you and the
focusing on the child at hand.
Now, I want you to consider this potentially threatening
Your child tells you that a teacher
is punishing the whole class for the actions of a few
Your child is upset, and you're angry.
You call and demand a conference with the teacher.
When you arrive you are fuming, insulting and blaming
principal, administrators and everyone else you
And then, you find out that your child was absolutely,
positively - without a
shadow of a doubt wrong. How do you recover?
You've done yourself nor your child any good.
I invite you to consider a strategy that does not
alienate the teacher or any of
the people who have a responsibility to care for
your child - but a strategy
that is still loyal to your child - remember, the
most important reason for
the conference is to accomplish something positive
for your child.
First, don't make assumptions. Don't even
assume that you are hearing
the whole story from your child? Get his or her side,
but be prepared to
hear the teacher's side. When you go to the conference,
instead of starting off with "Bobbie said..."
Ask: "What is happening?" and "Why?"
That way you set a positive tone for the meeting. Do as
I did, go in to the
meeting with a calm, open attitude, You will discover
that can only help.
Secondly, you can take your child with you but only if
with both your child and the teacher to make sure they
with that arrangement.
Having your child come along can be a good thing if you
are hearing two
very different stories. And, of course, be prepared to
offer suggestions if you can.
Some issues may not call for a conference.
One for example is this:
If your child tells you she's had a spat with another
child, they probably will have reconciled their differences
long before you get to the school for a conference.
However, you should intervene if you think someone may
be hurt - either
When else should you, as a parent, request a conference?
I would suggest any time you feel it would
If you just want to meet the teachers.
If you have some questions that you need answers too concerning
If you want the teacher to know you're there and that
you're both working
for the child.
If you have any questions about what the teacher is doing
in class or what his or her teaching philosophy is.
It is very important that you, as a parent, feel comfortable
enough to come
into the school building and talk - especially when nothing
Work with us as we work with you to move our children
from "A" to "triple
A"- and lets have a marvelous school year.