There is something about sitting down with your child’s teacher that really makes you feel like you’ve crossed over a divide. If becoming a mother didn’t make you feel like a grown up, sitting down for your first parent-teacher conference certainly does the job.
If you were an insufferable goodie-two shoes as I was as a girl, you would have given anything to be allowed in the room at this hallowed tete-a-tete to hear yourself heaped with laurels and praise by your admiring teacher and proudly and whole-heartedly endorsed by your modest parents.
But as a mom, praise (while lovely) is not really what you are there for. Here are some tips I received from friends as I prepared for my first parent teacher conference.
1. Listen and be receptive
No one’s child is perfect. If your child’s teacher has concerns, don’t become defensive or deny a negative behavior. Children are often quite different with parents than they are at school with teachers and know how to play the one against the other quite brilliantly. Trust that you have chosen the right school for your child and that your child’s caregiver is sharing observations out of interest and concern.
2. Don’t go on the offense
If you have noticed a class practice or school policy that concerns you, make sure you ask about it rather than critique it immediately. There may be a pedagogical or safety reason you were unaware of that informs this practice. Your ongoing relationship with your child’s teacher will be greatly improved.
3. Don’t hesitate to air concerns
On the other hand, don’t hesitate to be your child’s advocate. Perhaps those policies need changing. Be as informed a participant in the discussion as you can be. If you’d like to see something changed, don’t hesitate to ask if there is a PTA group you can join so that you can compare notes with other parents. Be aware though that the teacher may not be the decider in many situations.
4. Ask them to keep an eye out
Let’s face it, teachers often see more of our children than we do; particularly at peak hours of the day. They are perfect allies to help you in monitoring a health or behavior of concern. If you suspect allergies or eyesight problems, be sure to make teachers aware so that they can monitor your child closely.
5. Be alert to warning signs.
A failure of a teacher or school to listen compassionately to your concerns is and should be a red flag. We may not always get our way on every matter but responsiveness is key. If you feel ignored or even bullied by teachers or the administration, don’t hesitate to air these feelings and consider taking your money (or more importantly your child) elsewhere.
If you’ve already had a parent teacher conference, what tips would you offer to other parents?