When you were a child, you probably saw your parents head off for a parent teacher conference at the school. Maybe you dreaded these meetings because of the scolding you knew awaited you afterwards. Or perhaps you looked forward to the proud look on your parents' face after hearing the nice things your teacher would say.
Regardless of your past associations, you probably had only a vague notion of what a parent teacher conference is, and what happens at such a meeting. Now that you're an adult and responsible for taking part in these events, let's define what is a parent teacher conference.
A parent teacher conference is a meeting between a student's parents and teacher or teachers, to discuss the child's progress academically, socially and with regard to expected classroom behavior. Other topics such as homework and emotional or friend challenges may also come up.
The best parent teacher conferences follow a set agenda with both parties preparing something to say. The teacher should have examples of your child's school work, any relevant test scores, and observations of the child's class participation, academic work and social growth to share with you. As a parent, it may be helpful to prepare some questions for the teacher conference about anything that confused you or raised a concern during the previous few months of school.
You most likely will have one or two regularly scheduled parent teacher conferences each year, as a routine, to stay updated on your child's education. However, if your child is struggling academically or otherwise, the teacher may suggest an additional conference. Don't dread this event; treat it as an opportunity to intervene in your child's school experience in a positive way. Listen at least as much as you talk, and keep an open mind. After all, the child you see at home rarely presents the exact same persona and behavior at school.
You also should be able to ask for a special parent teacher conference if you have concerns about your child's progress. You might want to request a teacher conference if you aren't getting enough information about your child's education through notes, emails and returned class work from the teacher. It's certainly challenging to fit a conference into your work day, but the time now will prevent future disruption if your child continues along a downward slide academically.
While parent teacher conferences are routine in the preschool and elementary school years, they most likely will wane as your child gets older. In middle school and high school, your child is increasingly able to take responsibility for his or her own learning. You will get information about the curriculum and school procedures at events such as back to school night, curriculum night and meet the teachers night.
As your child ages, the feedback you get from teachers will largely reside on the report cards and graded class and homework you receive. Some school systems have even put this information online so that parents can track the child's progress in academics, tests and homework. Still, don't be shy about asking your child to share his or her academic progress with you -- or even asking the teachers -- so you can make sure everything is on track.