Your children’s schoolteachers are among the most influential people in their lives. They define your children’s experience of school - their love of certain subjects, how quickly they settle in, how comfortable and confident they feel. Establishing a good relationship with your child’s teacher is, needless to say, fundamental to their development. Yet I witness, time and time again, parents shying away from communicating regularly with teachers, especially at parent-teacher conferences.
We can’t be on top of everything, all of the time, mamas. I get that. The mom juggle struggle is real. So here are my top five tips on navigating the numerous parent-teacher conferences ahead:
Talk with Your Child FIRST
Your first step is to communicate with your child. Their thoughts and feelings count. You need to gauge how they are feeling about school, and what their interests and fears are. Children need to know they are important and feel loved in this process, otherwise they will feel attacked. Here are some questions to get you started:
· Which subjects does he like the most and the least?
· Does anything stress him out at school?
· How are his classmates? Who are his BFFs? Who are the bullies?
· What are the opposite sex dynamics in the classroom? Any crushes?
· Is there anything he struggles with?
· Is there anything he finds super easy?
Then Talk to Your Partner
It took two to tango to make your child. It also takes two to school your child. Team effort is essential here. You MUST talk to your partner (whether you are together or not) to make sure you are both on the same page regarding your child’s education. Create a list of questions TOGETHER for the teacher, present a united front, and make sure you ask the most important questions first. Some examples include:
· What are his best subjects?
· Where could he improve?
· How can we help him improve at home?
- How can we support you at home?
- Does he focus at school?
- Is he social or introverted?
Preparation is key to a successful parent-teacher conference experience.
At The Conference, Keep Calm & Carry On
Begin by setting the scene. I think it’s always courteous to start a meeting with your teacher by thanking her for looking after your child so well. It sets a positive tone and creates neutral territory between you. Always be calm, diplomatic, and professional. Do not get upset or angry. The more open you are to the conversation, the more you'll facilitate your child's learning and development in the real world.
Let’s face it; your child's teacher spends more hours in the day with him than you do. But, if you disagree on a talking point don't be afraid to explain why you disagree, because your differing points of view may help you both discover a more effective way to help your child. Disagreements aren’t always a bad thing. They are often a journey of discovery.
After the Event
Your job is not done yet. You have to discuss the evening with your child. But, timing is everything. Make sure you do it when he is alert and calm. Keep it short and sweet (a maximum of 10 minutes). Start by sharing the good news and compliment him on his accomplishments. Give concrete examples of when his teacher observed strong learning and reinforce his positive behavior. For example, "Your teacher says you're an inclusive friend. Well done."
You must be direct when dealing with negative feedback. Make it clear to your child that there are a few problems that need to be discussed. You are not ganging up on him. You are on his side and you will work it out together. Some suggested language includes,
“I know you sometimes have difficulty with…, however…” or “I wonder if you were to focus on…, would you have more success?” or “I can support you by…” This way he will feel less alone.
Create An Action Plan
The last step is to create an action plan with your teacher and child to help him with his educational development. You need to have your child’s buy-in for this to work. As a parent it's super important to give yourself homework to stay on task and support the plan. We get busy, lazy and forgetful, and it can be draining "fighting" with your child over difficult learning situations. Keep calm and create a doable action plan for your child to stay on top of his learning progress. This really is a team effort.
You may believe your child is perfect, but your parenting job is to face reality head on and guide your child in the best direction possible. This includes attending, actively participating, and actioning the outcome of all parent-teacher conferences. Best of luck!