Parent-teacher conferences are fraught with anxiety.  Parents are worried about what the teacher is going to say, and teachers are worried about how the parents are going to react to what the have to say.  But typically these conferences are benign conversations between adults who only have the child’s best interests in mind.

After conducting 23 conferences with the parents of my kindergarten students and attending 2 conferences for my own children last week, I’ve accumulated some tips on how to make those conferences go as smoothly as possible.  Here are my…

Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts During Parent-Teacher Conferences

10)  DON’T walk into the conference with the preconcieved notion that your child can do no wrong.  No child is perfect, academically or behaviorally.  Be prepared to hear both positive feedback and suggestions for improvement.

9)  DO come prepared with a list of questions if you have any.  Conferences are rare opportunities to voice concerns with your child’s teachers regarding anything from your child’s progress to classroom procedures.

8)  DON’T worry!  The teacher isn’t out to criticize your parenting skills.  Relax.  The conference is for reviewing your child’s performance, not yours.

7)  DO offer suggestions concerning your child’s learning style.  Everyone learns in different ways, and if you have any insight into the ways your child learns, the teacher would love to hear it.

6)  DON’T bring your child and siblings to the conference if you can help it.  I brought both of my kids to Big C’s conference, and I so wished I hadn’t.  Little C was misbehaving, and Big C was eavesdropping.  Not only was their presence a distraction, but I went over my allotted time because of their constant interruptions.  (And yes it was quite embarrassing that I am a teacher myself, and I violated this rule!)

5)  DO inform the teacher of major transitions at home.  The deployment of a parent, an impending divorce, a new baby.  These are all emotionally charged issues that the teacher needs to be aware of because they could potentially affect your child’s performance in school.

4)  DON’T ask to discuss another student.  Yes, your child may have issues with a classmate, but teachers have an obligation to protect personal information about each and every student in their class.  If your child is being bullied, absolutely address that in the conference.  However, don’t ask for specifics about the other child.  Chances are the teacher is already aware of the situation and is doing everything she can to fix it by communicating with school administration and the other child’s parents.   (***As a side note, if the bullying continues, document everything your child tells you and keep the teacher updated.***)

3)  DO ask the teacher if you can contact her with any further questions.  Some teachers don’t, but I give out my email address for parents to contant me with any concerns.  I would rather email or call a parent on my own time than have mini-conferences during the day when I should be teaching my class.

2)  DON’T go over your designated appointment time.  Most teachers have to keep to a strict schedule on conference day.  If you go over your time, the next parents are losing out on their time (and the teacher may be losing out on her break time).

1)  DO thank your child’s teacher for the effort she puts into your child’s education.  Most parents have no idea how many hours teachers work outside the classroom or the money they spend out of their own pockets to enhance their students’ overall learning experience.  Something as simple as, “Thank you for all that you do” or “My child loves your class” goes a long way in reassuring teachers that their efforts are appreciated.
If you are a parent of school-aged children, do you have any other advice?  If you are a teacher, do you have anything to add to the list? 

5 Comments on Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts During Parent-Teacher Conferences

  1. I've figured out "the code." You know, "introspective" means shy and "very helpful" means pushy and "social" means insanely talkative? I'm on to you, teachers.

    Hey, I wrote about Love and Logic today. I HAVE TO KNOW if you're a fan of their stuff?

  2. Great list! All so true. I may have to print this one out and put it in the staff room to share, if you don't mind. Great food for thought for teachers and parents alike. Thanks!

  3. Love the list. Maybe next year I will create one of these and send it home before conferences.

    I think I'll add, please make every attempt to arrive at the time YOU schedule. Is the cable guy really more important than your child's education?

  4. i like this post! im a teacher too and we just got done with conferences last week – i teach 5th – 8th grade science and had conferences for all 161 of them (give or take a few for siblings and no shows)!!!

    with the older kids, ive found it to actually be beneficial that the student attends the conferences. the teacher can get input and ask how they think they are doing in class – not to put the student on the spot but instead allow them to self-reflect and really think about their own progress/learning.

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