If conferences for your middle or high school child are anything like mine, all the teachers have their own table in a big gym and lines of people waiting their turn. Basically: the evening I’m dreading most this week. I really like talking to teachers, but the long wait then short conversation doesn’t seem to be truly beneficial for anyone. But I’ve got some ideas for how to make better use of this time. Choose to have a new perspective by deploying these strategies to have meaningful parent-teacher conferences.
Pre-game with your student.
Talk to your child before conferences to see how classes have been going. Ask them about the teacher, which classes they really like and which ones they hate, and if they’ve been keeping up with assignments. You can also see this through your school’s online grading portal – if you don’t know how to use/view it, plan some time with an administrator to walk you through it while at the school. Having some background before you meet teachers will create better conversation.
Bring something meaningful with you to pass the time.
Most of us walk into waiting rooms and lines with our phone to entertain us. That can feel like wasting time (unless you enjoy social media or playing games…in that case: woohoo! enjoy!). Is there a book collecting dust on your nightstand? A household budget you’ve struggled to make time for? Get something done! You’ll be less agitated by the wait if you’re accomplishing something that has been on your to-do list for a while.
Create two-way conversation.
Tell the teacher about your child. Share an interest (he loves animals and works at a dog groomers), and also a concern (he struggles with anxiety). The lines may be pressuring you to hurry up this time, but I’ll bet it takes you less than 30 seconds to tell the teacher something unique about your child – as long as you’ve thought about it before hand.
Get your student to join you for the conference.
As a former teacher hosting conferences, one of my favorite moments was when the child and parent came to visit me together. It was a one-on-one opportunity for me to better connect with the student and compliment her face-to-face (something that, let’s be honest, doesn’t happen enough for teens today). Then we could also talk about a few ways to improve in my class, too. As a parent, you’ll love watching this interaction unfold.
If your student does not attend with you, tell him or her about the conference afterwards. If you’ve got bad news (which may have been a surprise to you, but shouldn’t be to them), take special note to point out the really great things teachers said about your child. Your child spends many hours in that building, and positive affirmation of something great about them is necessary for them to want to continue showing up every day and trying.
Follow-up if an action was decided upon.
If anyone (you, teacher, or your child) agreed to make a change or do something, set a calendar reminder for yourself to either do it or check in with the person who will do it. This investment in making sure the actions were done not only speaks loads to your teacher about your commitment to your child’s education, but it also shows the importance of school to your teen, too.
So don’t dread the waiting or the superficial conversation of upcoming parent-teacher conferences. Choose to prepare and make it a proactive and meaningful meeting for all parties! Good luck!