Tips for parent and teacher conferences

7 Nov

Preparation for the parent and teacher conference begins long before the actual meeting with the teacher. It begins with the selection of the school and asking the right questions about the school. The key question to ask is how is the school going to communicate with you about your child’s progress? How regular is the communication?

How to Prepare for a Parent and Teacher Conference

BabyCenter.Com has an excellent checklist for parent and teacher conference and they provide 14 basic questions to ask.

14 great questions to ask the teacher

1. Is my child working up to his ability?

2. Is there anything we can do at home to reinforce the skills that you’re working on in the classroom?

3. How much time should my child be spending on his homework?

4. Do you grade homework assignments?

5. What are my child’s strengths and weaknesses?

6. What can we do to help develop our child’s weak areas?

7. What are my child’s academic talents?

8. How are grades determined — are tests weighted the same as homework and in-class assignments?

9. What is my child like in class?

10. What is my child’s learning style?

11. How does my child interact with the other kids?

12. Is there anything that I can share with you about my child and what he’s like at home?

13. What skills will my child be expected to master this year in key subjects like math, English, science, and history?

14. Which, if any, standardized tests will be administered this year?

Family Education has a number of printable forms including one on Parent and Teacher Conferences They begin their checklist with a discussion with your child and they also have some questions parents may want to ask. You must register to access their materials, but registration is free.

Here are some general hints on how to have a successful conference:

· Ask your child if there is anything that he would like you to discuss with the teacher.

· Jot down everything that you want to talk about at the conference.

· Arrive promptly or a few minutes early.

· Begin with positive comments about the teacher or classroom.

· Avoid lengthy discussions of topics that are not related to the purpose of the conference.

· Be open to suggestions from the teacher.

· Keep your emotions under control.

· Take notes about what has been discussed and share them with your child.

· Express appreciation for the conference.

· Do not stay beyond your allotted time.

The goal of the parent and teacher conference is to get an accurate assessment of where your child is at a particular point in their academic career. Is your child making progress toward achieving academic goals? If not, what is the plan to have the child meet academic goals? If the child is meeting academic goals, are they sufficiently challenged by their work and in the proper placement? The goal is to make the teacher an ally in the education process.

Preparation for Teachers and Administrators

Beginning teachers are often apprehensive about parent conferences. Cathy Pearl offers some sage advice at Tips for Teachers

Tip #1: Make sure you are approachable. Greet every parent at the door with a smile and a handshake. No matter how you feel about their child, a parent should be greeted with respect.

Tip #2: Don’t sit in a position of power. It is not appropriate for the teacher to sit behind the desk during a conference. Arrange chairs in a circle, or sit kitty-corner to each other at a table.

Tip #3: Always start with the positive at a conference. Starting with the positive aspects about a child sets the tone for the entire meeting. No matter how difficult a child is, there is always something that they do well. Find it and use that as a starting point for the rest of the meeting.

Tip #4: When you are discussing a child, bring work samples to illustrate your points. This goes for things a child does well, and areas you may be working on with that child. If a child is showing improvement, bring before and after samples. Parents want to know how their child is developing his or her skills and work samples show this better than words.

Tip #5: At some point, a parent will ask a question that you don’t know the answer to. Don’t make up an answer to cover your lack of knowledge about a subject. Admit that you don’t know the answer and offer to find it for them. Parents will have more respect for you if you give them the correct answer, even if it is a day or two later, versus an incorrect one.

Tip #6: Start and end meetings on time. If you or the parents need more time, offer to meet again at another time. Their time is just as valuable as yours.

Tip #7: No matter how upset a parent gets, as a teacher you must remain calm. A teacher is often on the receiving end of anger and frustration. If you are concerned the meeting will be uncomfortable, ask another teacher to sit in with you. If nothing is being accomplished, offer to meet at another time when everyone involved is calmer.

Tip #8: It is very important to follow through on what was discussed at the meeting. Implement any changes discussed and be sure to call parents within two days with the answers to any questions you did not have at the meeting.

The Washoe County School District in Nevada has a comprehensive planning memo which addresses many of the issues presented by parent involvement.

Tips for Teachers and Administrators Parent Teacher Conferences

Research has shown that parental involvement is essential to a student’s success in school. One of the most important contacts between home and school is the Parent Teacher Conference. Learn how to make the most of the opportunity!



Announce dates and times repeatedly – at family learning nights, back to school night, open houses, sporting events and assemblies.

Publish the schedule in newsletters, on a bulletin board or on the school web site.

Create a bulletin board in the school devoted to conferences with tips for parents.

Provide conference information in a language that parents can understand.

Discuss or include information on the goals of a parent teacher conference and the reasons parent attendance is essential.

Accessibility for Every Parent

Allow flexible schedules that include early morning, late afternoon and evening conference times.

Consider longer conference times such as 20 to 30 minute sessions.

Arrange for school counselors, office staff or parent volunteers to telephone parents, reminding them of their appointments and encouraging them to attend.

Talk to your Partners in Education or your parent organization (PTA, PTO, PFO) about providing childcare, transportation, and refreshments.

Provide interpretation.

Let parents know what services will be provided to help them overcome their barriers to attendance.

Many parents face challenges because of employment and other circumstances. To the extent possible, to goal should be to accommodate their involvement. 

Kelsey Sheehy of U.S. News provides the following tips for parents of high school students in the article, What High School Teachers Wish Parents Asked at Conferences:

As high school students inch closer and closer to college, parents can help ensure their student is on the right path by participating in teacher conferences. If a student is headed in the wrong direction, teachers can use the time to advise parents on how to help their teen change course.

While showing up at parent-teacher conferences is an important first step, asking the right questions will help both parties have a productive meeting. Here are some questions teachers say they wish parents would ask:

1. Is my student giving his or her best effort?

Conferences are typically a time for teachers to walk parents through their student’s grades, progress, and areas for growth. But grades don’t always tell the full story….

2. What could my teen do that he or she is not already doing?

Almost every student has room for improvement, and in an increasingly competitive college admissions landscape, each grade or activity could count.

Whether it’s taking advantage of internship or extra credit opportunities, filling out college applications, or simply turning assignments in on time, teachers can tell parents what their student needs to do to take his or her academic performance to the next level.

3. What can I do to make your job easier?

Parents and teachers should be on the same team–the student’s team….

“Place the responsibility for ‘doing well’ and turning in work on time right on the person who has the most control over making that happen–the student themselves,” Mango said via E-mail.

[Learn why students perform better with engaged parents.]

4. How are you doing?

Teaching can be a thankless task. Many teachers are managing dozens of students on a daily basis, and take on responsibilities that extend far beyond classroom instruction.

“I’m a teacher, a psychologist, a security guard, a babysitter, a bank, a chef, and countless other jobs. And it’s not like I’m doing it all for one child; no, I’m doing it for 70,” says Vin Testa, a math teacher at Roosevelt High School in Washington, D.C.;_ylt=ArsHGTgJH7dELCtAX6_oB0pPXs8F;_ylu=X3oDMTQ0czBza25nBG1pdANUb3BTdG9yeSBVU1NGIEVkdWNhdGlvblNTRgRwa2cDNDFiODAwMzktZDAwMy0zNTA2LWIyMmQtNmVjZWIxZmE3NzIxBHBvcwM0BHNlYwN0b3Bfc3RvcnkEdmVyAzA2NzA0YzMwLTI3NjEtMTFlMi1iYmRiLTU4N2ZlYzczYmQ2Mg–;_ylg=X3oDMTFzcXM5ajBmBGludGwDdXMEbGFuZwNlbi11cwRwc3RhaWQDBHBzdGNhdANob21lfGVkdWNhdGlvbgRwdANzZWN0aW9ucw–;_ylv=3

Remember, the conference you will be attending is like a snapshot of a point in time. School is a process of learning and getting through the system of education. Go to the conference prepared and ask questions. If your child has challenges, formulate a plan to address those challenges. If it is necessary to take some corrective action to get your child on the proper course, ask for benchmarks of where your child should be at particular points during the school year and into the next grade. Ask how you will be informed. Constantly monitor what is going on at your child’s school and in their classroom. Hopefully, at the end of the conference you and your child’s teacher will be allies in the academic success of your child.

It is important that your child’s teacher understands that you are a concerned parent who is interested in working with them to ensure your child’s success.


Iowa Parents. Org Information about how to be an involved parent

Education World Parent and Teacher Conference Resources

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