A conference is a great opportunity to learn about how your child is doing in class and ways you can improve that. But too often, parents emerge from the meeting realizing that they forgot to ask a particular question, forgot to say something important, or forgot to listen. Here's how to make the most of that time with the teacher.
Time Required: Never enough
- Be on time. The teacher's time is valuable, and so is yours. Don't waste any of it with driving, parking and running breathlessly down halls. It doesn't hurt to be a little early; you'll seem eager, interested and involved.
- Dress appropriately. Consider this to be a meeting between professionals -- the teacher, the expert on the classroom, and you, the expert on your child. Dress as though you expect to be taken seriously.
- Be open-minded. If the teacher has called you in for a reason, you've likely heard one side of the story -- your child's. Be willing to hear the other side. You'll learn a lot more if the teacher isn't busy being defensive.
- Listen as much as you talk. It's tempting to spend the meeting telling the teacher all about your child and what he or she needs, but it's also important to listen to the teacher and what he or she is observing or expecting. If you're the only one talking, stop.
- Have an agenda. You'll get the most out of the meeting if you have a few specific things to discuss. Make a list, and check items off as you cover them. The more focused you are on what you expect from the meeting, the more likely you are to get it.
- Take notes. While you're crossing items off your list, jot down any information you receive, any names, dates, information, numbers of reports or tests, grades, or anything else of interest. After the meeting, write these down in your contact log in greater detail.
- Make an action plan. If you've discussed anything that requires action by you or by the teacher, discuss a timetable for that and agree on who will do what. Write that information down and confirm it the next day in a note to the teacher.
- Follow up. Make sure to do the things you told the teacher you would, and check back to make sure the teacher is doing what you discussed, too. Keeping an ongoing dialog during the year, through meetings, phone calls, notes and e-mails, can help you become a truly collaborative partner in your child's education.
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What You Need
- Notebook, datebook or pad of paper
- Pen or pencil
- Notes on what to discuss
- Any school papers you have questions about
- Any books, resources or reports you want to share with the teacher