I didn't expect to be nervous for my 5-year-old daughter's first-ever parent-teacher conference. I knew she was doing well in school from the smiley face- and check-mark-filled work her kindergarten teacher sent home almost every day. She was eager to get to class every morning, despite our daily 6:30 a.m. wake-up struggle. She'd made new friends and developed a bond with her teacher, and she was regularly impressing me with her newfound reading skills. Nothing to worry about, right?
But still, walking in with my husband to meet her teacher, I found myself feeling the same kind of anxiety I had before I used to get my own report cards, oh so long ago. After all, my daughter now spends more of her waking hours at school than at home, and I can barely get a "good" out of her when I ask about her day. I wanted the intel, I was worried that she might be as dramatic and averse to listening at school as she is at home, and most of all, I wanted to make sure her dad and I were doing everything we could to help her succeed as a student.
The conference, which lasted almost an hour, ended up being great. I learned about the kind of student my daughter is, a lot of which surprised her dad and me. (Who knew she's "very confident" in her math skills and prefers reading nonfiction at the library? Not me.)
Make sure your parent-teacher conference is equally successful by following these six simple tips.
- Review progress reports/report cards in advance. Most schools will schedule conferences shortly after the send out progress reports or report cards. Be sure you review your child's in advance. This might sound simple, but I was expecting a paper copy to come home, and only realized that I had missed a link to the report in one of the many, many emails I get from my daughter's school when a friend mentioned it days later.
- Prepare questions, if you have any. If there's something specific you're concerned about, whether it's related to your kid's academic or social progress, be sure to bring it up early on. While my hour-long conference benefited because there wasn't another one scheduled directly after, it was only slated to last 20 minutes. Get to the big questions before you run out of time.
- Ask your child if there's anything she'd like you to bring up. You'll probably get a no, but letting your kid know that you're going to have a one-on-one audience with their teacher might inspire them to reveal something they've been concerned about.
- Try to schedule a time when both you and your spouse can attend. Most moms I know bear the brunt of school responsibilities, and between homework, paperwork, and PTO events and drives, there are a lot. My husband wasn't really aware of the amount of homework I do with our daughter, or why it's so important, until our conference, and he's been more involved since.
- Don't be surprised if your child is different at school than they are at home. Apparently, my daughter is always the first to volunteer to help her classmates finish their work once she's done with her own. At home, she rolls her eyes if I ask her to pick her coat off the floor. She, a girl who yesterday spent an hour crying about a drawing her brother crumpled up, also "rises above the drama" with classmates. Of course, I'm thrilled she's so well behaved at school, but seriously, what is her teacher doing right that I'm doing wrong?!
- Ask the teacher to give you homework. Leave with a directive for one (or more) things that you can do at home that would help your kid's school progress. Should you be reading more? Working on math skills? Or maybe encouraging physical activity, so they're not so wiggly during school hours? Your kid's teacher definitely knows where your kid struggles, so find out how you can help.