Monday, 05 October 2015 00:00

What to Say at Your First Parent-Teacher Conference

Written by  Sussan, Greenwald & Wesler

What can possibly get done in a fifteen minute parent-teacher conference? It can seem like a waste of time. It’s not enough time to hear all about your child’s progress, or even hear about all the subjects he or she will be learning. It is barely parentTeacherConfenough time to take a peek at a few samples of your child’s work which your teacher likely will have selected to demonstrate your child’s progress. The teacher might address--gently or not so gently--issues or challenges your child is facing. As much as parents care deeply about their child’s education—especially when they already are aware that their child has special needs including learning challenges—they often dread the parent-teacher conference. The best you can hope for is actually something well worth bringing about: The start of an open dialogue.

 How can you start that dialogue and make your parent-teacher conference the most helpful for your child? Here are a few suggestions:

--Let the teacher know you are open to hearing her comments—positive and negative. Your teacher can be your best ally in uncovering what your child is struggling with. You want to know if other children are teasing your child, or if your child misses social cues. Your teacher is more likely to tell you if she understands that you will not look to blame her as the source of the problem.

--Spend most of the time listening. Your teacher will most likely have given thought to the information she shares. Take notes.


--As time is short, ask questions that are specific to your child. Be sure to ask how your child is faring socially, behaviorally and emotionally. These areas of growth are part of the education your school is tasked with nurturing.

--If problems have arisen, inquire how the teacher has attempted to address the situation, and what results she has had so far. Ask about other options or approaches the teacher might consider.

--Find out the best way to communicate with your teacher and let her know you plan to keep the lines of communication open. If the meeting ends without resolution of issues, or with a plan to keep an eye on certain areas of concern, arrange a follow up meeting.

--Ask how you can help. Some teachers count on parent volunteers to run special activities, or request donations when possible to fund special projects. Your willingness to help will help build that strong relationship with your child's teacher.

--Let the teacher know you appreciate her efforts and that the teacher has your full support. Even if you hope for changes in your child's program or there are problems for you and the teacher to solve together, be sure to say "thank you." The teacher is there to help. Teaching is hard and children are complex individuals. The teacher is learning about your child and what he or she needs. A teacher who feels valued is more likely to put in the extra effort and caring that can change a child's life.

In summary, a parent-teacher conference may be short, but it can be highly valuable if you use it to start a dialogue. Be sure to let the teacher know--through your words, your tone and your body-language--that you view yourself and the teacher as a great duo, a team working together to figure out how to meet the unique needs of your child.

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