How to Have a Successful Parent-Teacher Conference

February 12th, 2013 posted by Teresa Higginbotham

Do parent-teacher conferences make you just a little nervous? Does it seem like they never turn out the way you would like them to? I’ve been on both sides of the table; as a parent and as a teacher. Here are a few things I have learned from watching successful conferences, and my fair share of nightmare meetings.

Dress for Success

Don’t arrive in your houseslippers. Would you respect a doctor who showed up in a T-shirt and flip-flops? How about an accountant who buttoned his shirt up incorrectly? The teachers are educational experts, but you are an expert in your own right. You are an expert on your child. Believe it or not, you have information for them, information they may not be aware of. Go in dressed like you mean business. If you want them to listen to you, then pull out that dress or suit. The entire demeanor of the meeting will change. I have seen teachers stand up and shake the hand of a woman in a suit and not bother to get up for a lady in cut-offs and a tank top.

Come Alone

If you can avoid it, don’t bring your children. Children can distract you from the point. If you bring the child for which the conference is about, then it should only be to clear the lines of communication (i.e., he said, she said). A two-year-old can wreck a conference faster than a fire drill. You want to stick to the point and concentrate on the information you are receiving — call a sitter.

Take Notes

I have a special needs child and sometimes I am bombarded with information about opportunities for my son. If I don’t write things down, I forget. I end up with appointments, educational toys, therapy names, etc. If you have a normal child, you will still end up with a lot of information you will want to keep track of.

Be Prepared

Be prepared for bad news. I find I get incredibly emotional when I hear about something my child is or isn’t doing. I had to start mentally preparing myself for it. Sometimes I would get so upset I’d forget anything else in the meeting. If you think you are being called in about a behavioral problem, then try to separate the emotion out — at least for the duration of the meeting. Focus on documenting the behavior and then on strategies to prevent it occurring in the future. Your child is not turning in his work? Then work out a system where his work will be checked by the teacher and rewarded by you. Your child is acting out in class? Then work out a day to day behavior report to be rewarded by or punished by you. Having a plan can help to get the problem solved faster. Blowing up won’t solve anything.

Act as a Team

You and the teachers should act as a team — not opposing forces. Unless you find you have a personality conflict with a teacher try to see them as a person that is trying to help your child. Don’t be afraid to include your input on behavior management, study skills, outside factors influencing your child’s behavior, and even a story or two that illustrates what your child is like outside of the classroom. Work together to come up with a plan to improve your child’s education. If your child is doing well in school, don’t forget to tell the teacher you appreciate their day-to-day help and encouragement.

Know Your Facts

If your child has a learning disability or a behavioral problem, read up on it. Don’t go into the conference unprepared. Knowing about a problem will help you understand why your child acts the way he or she does. Does your child have behavioral problems every time he or she has to write something off the board? One of mine did, and then I found out he had dysgraphia (severe handwriting problems). He still shudders when he has to write, but we learned about it, and we are now prepared for his lack of enthusiasm! Now, go into that conference a well-dressed, confident, professional parent. You can do it! Remember, it’s for the good of your child’s education, and his future.

Teresa Higginbotham (1 Posts)


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