Parent teacher conferences should come naturally to parents, right? Not exactly. If you have wondered what questions to ask, how to prepare, and what to expect, we can help.

Sometimes, it’s overwhelming to think of a one-on-one meeting with your child’s teacher because you are juggling so many to-do items. You are a parent, a co-worker or business owner, a friend; you may have a spouse, have other children at different grade levels, or you may be assisting aging parents.

It is important not to let parent teacher conferences be an added stressor. In fact, it’s helpful to remember that teachers are real people. They also have grocery lists, children to pick up from daycare, and work deadlines to meet.

So don’t worry if you do not have an extra hour to think through what you’ll discuss. However, if you have an extra 10 minutes, it’s helpful to have a few ideas for what you’d like to talk about and to recognize that your child’s teacher will also pose some conversation topics.

1. Manage expectations about your child’s teacher accurately.

Perhaps the most important thing to do before your parent teacher conferences is to recognize that your child’s teacher is a real person with real feelings. He or she has responsibilities to juggle and, usually, a roster of students to support. Here are some of the ways your teacher may be occupied beyond the classroom:

  • Serving as a monitor outside of class time (lunchroom, car drop-off and pick-up, etc.)
  • Meeting state requirements and completing paperwork for some students, as requested by school administrators, counselors, etc.
  • Conducting state-mandated testing, if applicable to your student’s school
  • Planning for future objectives, lessons, and special projects, especially if your teacher is a department head, coach, after-school elective facilitator or manages more than just your child’s classroom

Knowing the breadth of your child’s teacher’s responsibilities sometimes gives you a perspective that is larger than just what is taking place in the classroom.

2. Set expectations for yourself with confidence.

Just because your child’s teacher requests to meet with you does not mean that your child is in trouble or is doing poorly. At a minimum, all teachers have some level of required parental engagement throughout the school year. Many schools ask teachers to meet in person with parents at least two times a year.

So be confident that your teacher cares about your child, and he or she wants to get to know you and your child better.

3. Do some at-home prep work with your child.

You can start by asking your child some basic questions a day or two before the conference. General questions include:

  • Which aspects of school do you enjoy?
  • Which aspects of school are difficult or not as enjoyable?
  • Do you have anything specific you’d like me to ask your teacher or talk to him/her about?
  • If you could change one thing about your school day (within reason), what would it be?
  • How do you feel you are doing with classwork, homework, and participating in classroom discussions?

You might not want to ask all of this at once, and some of these are more applicable to older elementary, middle, and high school students. However, making sure your child gets some ownership and awareness about the meeting is important. It shows that you and your teacher are on the same page; you both care about your child.

4. Jot down a list of topics and/or questions you have for your teacher.

These may be a variety of questions and topics, ranging from schedule and grade questions for high school students to questions about how your child is doing in class participation, social settings, and/or grade-appropriate skills and work. Some areas to consider:

5. Expect a discussion from your teacher about a variety of topics.

Generally, a teacher will want to learn more about your child. She or he may ask questions about your child’s hobbies, educational background, or any familial events that can impact learning and mental health (such as a family move, one parent’s job transition, sibling issues, etc.) He or she might also bring up classroom expectations, behavior, and/or grades and potential for growth.

Remember that every child has room to grow and every child possesses strengths. Your teacher will likely acknowledge both.

Your child’s teacher may also just want to orient you to his or her classroom, explain some of the curriculum used, and opportunities for your child to do additional study as needed.

6. After the meeting, thank the teacher and take notes on anything you may need to do for a follow-up. If there are others with whom you need to meet, it’s handy to have a pen and paper to jot down names of other school professionals who may interact with your child or need to interact with your child in the future. For example, if your child is in second grade, but she is pulled out for reading help, you may want to also meet with the reading specialist. Or you might want to schedule a follow-up meeting that includes the classroom teacher and the specialist.

Just be prepared to follow up after the conference with an e-mail or other means of connecting.

Research has shown again and again that a parent who is informed and involved in his or her child’s school is an asset to the child’s success. While you don’t want to be a parent who questions every decision your child’s school and/or classroom teacher makes, it is important to continue the dialogue that began at the conference.

Send an occasional e-mail, continue to ask good questions, and keep in conversation with your child about how he or she is doing. Also, follow up with your child to let him or her know what you and the classroom teacher discussed. Being positive toward and about your child’s teacher goes a long way to helping your child have a positive attitude toward learning.

We invite you to find out more about Learnwell’s teaching staff, and reach out to our admissions director with any questions you have.