You’ve been meeting with others since your first job. You know the protocol. But somehow, the ritual of meeting changes when the focus changes from you to your child. Many adults automatically shift into defense mode when entering the classroom for parent-teacher conferences. Understandably so. Afterall, the topic at hand is your most valuable asset. Even parents of the most well-behaved children prepare themselves to hear criticisms and critiques, clearly all the results of their faulty parenting. But do parent-teacher conferences need to be adversarial?

Absolutely not. The point of a conference is to exchange information. Teachers learn just as much about their students as you learn about your child from these meetings. They are an opportunity to monitor the child’s development, discuss strategies to help them grow and celebrate their successes. 

Most schools hold conferences twice a year, typically in the fall and the spring. Here are some tips to help you get in the right frame of mind before meeting with your child’s teacher.

Before attending any conference, have an open discussion with your child. Review their most current grades and try to pinpoint any matters of concern. Let your child explain their grades to you, encouraging them to highlight points of pride and areas for improvement. Give them an opportunity to express any personal, academic or social concerns they may have. Ask if they are comfortable with you passing along this information to their teacher. All of this information will do wonders in preparing you for your time with their teacher and give you incredible insight to your child’s experience.

Fall conferences are intended to give educators a sense of who you and your child are. Use this opportunity to fill in the teacher on any recent personal developments over the summer. Be sure to establish open communication lines between school and home. This is a good time to address any concerns you may have about your child’s learning, behavior or social issues. Take the time to find out what you can do at home to reinforce habits of a new classroom. Share your expectations for your child’s social and emotional development, as well as academic progress. If something isn’t clear about this new classroom, be sure to ask questions about curriculum and behavioral plans. 

Spring conferences shift in focus and scope a bit. By this time, you should know your child’s teacher well and, in turn, they should know your family well. Use this opportunity to reflect on your child’s growth over the past six months. Share any changes you’ve noticed (positive and negative).  Discuss the progress of your child’s reading, writing and arithmetic skills. Share any social issues that concern your child. Ask what you can do to promote retention as summer approaches.

Prepare yourself for a snapshot of your child from an unbiased perspective. You may find out that your child demonstrates different characteristics outside of your home, be they good or bad. Remember that a teacher’s job is to monitor the progress of her students and to provide strategies to help them develop their academic and social skills. Approach this meeting with an open attitude and you will walk away with a new ally in raising your child.