Successful Parent Conferences
by Rhonda Moskowitz, M.A.,
PCI Certified Parent Coach®, Practical Solutions Parent Coaching
Each school year brings with it certain rituals: new sneakers in a larger size (who knew feet could grow so fast?), new school supplies (wow-they use calculators in kindergarten now!) and Parent/Teacher conferences. It doesn't matter if your child is a kindergartener or a senior in high school, at least once a year you will receive an invitation to participate in a Parent/Teacher conference. Based on your experiences in school you may have mixed feelings about this particular ritual. As a parent, though, it's a great opportunity to spend time with the other adults who are supporting your child on a daily basis.
What is the proper goal of this meeting? To hear how your student is doing? To learn about problems? Actually, neither. It's bridge building. That's right, a Parent/Teacher conference is really a construction project. The goal is to partner with the teacher so that together parent and teacher can build the supports the child needs to be successful in school.
Conferences are very time limited as teachers try to meet with every parent. To use your time effectively, you need to have a plan. What do you want to accomplish during this conference and how will you do it?
- Assume from the beginning that you and the teacher have the same goal in mind—your child's success. This is a fair guess, since people choose to become educators because they're committed to helping children grow and be successful.
- Use the pronoun 'we' when speaking. Make it clear that the teacher is a vital member of the 'we' team. "We clearly want the same thing for Sarah—for her to feel competent and capable about her ability to learn new material. Working together we (parents and teacher) can support her so that she feels successful."
- Tell the teacher what is already working. "Sam is clearly excited about the Early Explorers project. He has been telling us all about Magellan. He is really looking forward to the field trip next week. The work you are doing with him in class is motivating him to learn about other explorers."
- Ask the teacher what is going well in school for your child. "What are Anne's strengths in school? What are her strengths with peers?"
- Request information. "How can we (the parents) support schoolwork at home?"
- If you have a concern, express it as an issue that you can solve together. "Aaron has told us that there is a boy who is bothering him on the playground. Do you know anything about it? How can we help him with this?"
Will the parent and teacher always agree? Maybe, maybe not. But if the foundation of the relationship is shared responsibility for the success of the child, the likelihood of a positive outcome for the child increases. If you disagree about something, return to the original premise and remember the 'we'—everyone is working for the success of the child. With that as the starting point, create action steps that will help the child.
The goal of a successful Parent/Teacher conference isn't hearing accolades about your child. It's knowing that you have a partner who will work with you for the benefit of your son or daughter.
Rhonda Moskowitz, M.A., PCI Certified Parent Coach®, Practical Solutions Parent Coaching
Rhonda Moskowitz is a trained educator, administrator, parenting coach and consultant. She has extensive experience working child-oriented issues from both the parents' perspective and from that of educators. She holds certification in parent coaching and a master's degree in K-12 Learning and Behavior Disabilities. 10 years experience working in school and another 20 in private practice allow her to assist parents with practical information, consultation and guidance.
You can reach her at (614) 459-8628 or Rhonda@practicalsolutionsparentcoaching.com
Copyright © 2010 Rhonda Moskowitz, all rights reserved. Used with permission.