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KidspotStudio Ten and Kinderling Radio have recently published and discussed my ideas about parent teacher interviews.  As an educator and parent, I’ve been on both sides of the desk at parent-teacher meetings. From my experience some are more successful than others. It’s not necessarily because some children are better behaved, or achieve higher grades than others. It’s more about attitudes to these meetings and the preparation that parents and teachers make beforehand.

Here’s a few tips on how you, as a parent, can get the most helpful information from your child’s teachers at your parent-teacher meetings.

Consider the value of taking your child

Secondary schools often expect you to bring your child to the meeting, however if your child is in primary school then you’ll need to check with the school for this option.

The advantage of taking your child is that they will have the opportunity to hear their teacher share with you all the good things they’re doing in class. That’s a great boost to your child’s self-esteem, it supports their sense of accomplishment, and affirms all the effort they put into their studies. It’s also helpful to take your child to the interview if you aim to work out a plan for study skills, getting organised, or other things where direct communication between child, parent and teacher will help to put the plan into action.

On the other hand, the dynamics and your conversation with the teacher will be different if your child is there. The teacher will likely tend to talk to your child. They may also be reluctant to discuss sensitive issues in front of your child.

If you have a significant issue to discuss, the best option is to talk to the teacher without your child, outside of official parent teacher meetings. This will allow you a more in depth discussion than the strict 15-minute time allocations these meetings allow.

Come with an open mind

If your child is experiencing learning or social problems then it’s important for you to be open to the teacher’s interpretation. As a teacher it’s important to remember this as well. A teacher’s goal is to work with parents to solve problems, not judge. Without an open mind you might leave the meeting feeling defeated instead of empowered.

Ask your child what they would like you to ask or address

It’s important for children to feel ownership over their learning; part of this is being an advocate for themselves. This is particularly important for children who feel a little reluctant to ask their teacher something or to share something about themselves. As a parent you can act as the middleman and get the conversation started.

Let the teacher know what is and isn’t working regarding homework and school activities

Parent-teacher meetings are a two-way experience. They provide an opportunity for the teacher to share what they know about your child at school and for you to share what you know about your child. Review the school report with your child and together discuss whats working and not working. Bring these ideas to the meeting to give a well-rounded view when you speak with the teacher.

If a teacher doesn’t provide some positive feedback, ask for it

Even children with the hardest challenges have positive achievements that we as educators can point out. If your child isn’t happy at school, you may be the emotional dump who only hears all the things that went wrong. You mightn’t even be aware that they created a great video for science or answered a question that baffled everyone else in the class. Parents and teachers need to focus and build on these little victories together.

After the meeting

If you’re child didn’t attend the meeting then make sure you let them know the strengths your teacher mentioned and congratulate them. It’s also important for children to take responsibility for their own learning, so talk with your child about the suggestions that were discussed in the meeting. Ask them to propose one or two practical strategies to work towards them and support them in achieving them.

Link to the published article: http://www.kidspot.com.au/parent-teacher-meetings-a-teachers-straight-talking-guide/

Link to the Studio Ten discussion of my article: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPmZEr2HuD4

LISTEN to Kidspot’s parenting editor discuss my article on Kinderling Kids Radio.