Help! My child’s teacher has requested a conference!

I taught Middle School and High School for over 20 years and I’ve raised five children. I’ve been on both sides of the teacher’s desk for conferences. I’ve been on both ends of difficult telephone calls. As a teacher, I’ve had to try to convince parents that their “little darling” needed to make some changes academically or behaviorally. On the flip side, as a parent, I’ve felt the burning desire to defend my child and desperately want to believe my kid’s side of the story.

The truth is that conferences can be hard on both the parent and the teacher. Think about it – here are two adults (both authority figures) who may have never spoken before thrust into a conversation about a child who they might have very different experiences with.

Here are some tips to make a conference more conversational and less confrontational.

In general:

  • If possible, be visible at your child’s school. Be at open house. Volunteer when you can. Introduce yourself to teachers, administrators, and office staff. (This isn’t the same as being a “helicopter parent;” it simply means don’t let the first time you communicate with school staff be when there is a problem. Trust me, this makes all the difference in the world.)
  • Remember, the goal is for your child to excel at school, not for you to win an argument.

Before the conference:

  • Inform your child that their teacher has requested a conference and ask them what they think the teacher wants to talk about.
  • Be careful with drawing any conclusions at this point. You’ve only heard one side of the story.
  • Be on time or call and reschedule the conference.

During the conference:

  • Be respectful and open-minded.
  • Remember that your body language is speaking volumes. Are you smiling? Are your arms crossed across your chest?
  • Ask good questions. Does this behavior happen after lunch? At the end of the day? Does your child sit in the front or the back of the classroom?
  • Don’t be afraid to share what is going on at home that could be affecting your child’s behavior and academic performance. (The teacher doesn’t necessarily need all the specific details, but during conferences, I’ve discovered that families were dealing with heavy issues at home, and it completely changed the way I perceived a student’s behavior.)
  • Come up with an action plan that includes the teacher, student, and parent. It should also include when the parent and teacher will follow up about the issue.

After the conference:

  • Keep the lines of communication open.
  • If you feel that progress isn’t being made, a meeting that includes an Assistant Principal or Principal might need to be scheduled.

Remember: Conversation, not confrontation! The goal is for your child to get the best education possible!

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