How to Get the Most Out of Parent-Teacher Conferences

It’s that time of year again! Parents throughout the DC area will be attending parent-teacher conferences during the first week of November to discuss their child’s progress.  Educational Connections’ President, Ann Dolin, recently chatted with WTOP radio, answering the popular question: “What should I ask my child’s teacher at parent-teacher conferences?” Read on to learn Ann’s top tips on how to get the most out of parent-teacher conferences.

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Be prepared

While it depends on the school and grade level, most parents in Fairfax County Public Schools only get 20 minutes with their child’s teacher. To make the most out of their parent-teacher conference, parents should come prepared. This means they should have all questions, concerns, or compliments in written form and be ready to take notes. One of the most important questions for parents to ask is, “Is my child meeting expectations – academically and behaviorally?

Use the term “I’ve noticed” when voicing a concern

As a former Fairfax County public school teacher, Ann sat through some highly productive conferences and some not so great ones too. She found that when parents use the phrase “I’ve noticed,” rather than saying “you,” the conversation was much more solution-focused. For example, instead of saying to a teacher, “You are giving too much homework,” parents should try, “I’ve noticed that Billy has an hour of homework in math each night. Should fourth graders have this much homework?” Sometimes teachers are completely unaware of what goes on at home, especially when it comes to homework. Phrasing your concerns in a friendly manner allows for an open dialogue.

Get to the root of any issues

If parents learn that their child is struggling, they should try to get as much information about what is really causing the issue as possible. Typically academic problems are either subject-related (the student doesn’t fully understand the concepts) or is related to organization, time management, and study skills. These processes are called executive functioning skills. At Educational Connections, we’ve found that conceptual problems typically happen in subjects like math, where one skill builds upon another; whereas difficulty staying organized and managing time can affect a student across the board, not just in one particular subject. Based on the conversation with their child’s teacher, there are a number of things parents can do to make an impact for the rest of the school year. If the academic problems are specific to a subject, parents should determine if they are the best person to assist their child. With elementary school students, parents often feel comfortable helping, but as the content gets harder or if academics are causing a strain on the relationship, they should consider outside help. Many schools have after school homework clubs which allow students to get additional support from school teachers and peers. At Educational Connections, we’ve found that many times when parents act as homework police there ends up being a lot of tension between mom, dad, and the child. If you find yourself in this situation, consider finding a tutor who can either help with specific subjects or with executive functioning skills.