Every fall, schools all across America hold parent-teacher conferences. These conferences often strike fear or dread into the hearts and minds of parents of school-aged children everywhere. However, it doesn’t have to be that way! Heading into parent-teacher conferences can be a winning experience for teachers, parents, and most importantly, for students.
As a teacher for the past eighteen years and a parent for almost eleven, I understand that these parent-teacher conferences can create anxiety. But instead of preparing as if you are going to go into battle for the honor of your child, raise your visor and lower your shield. Head into the conference instead with a smile and a blueprint for building a beautiful relationship with your child’s teacher, one that will serve all three of you well this year.
To help get you started, here are three tools you can use to create a productive relationship between you and your child’s teacher:
See your child’s teacher as a partner.
Visualize your conference ahead of time as a partnership. Often times, parents think they are acting as partners, when in reality they are not. Parents who tell the teacher how to teach their class are not working as partners, but rather as opponents. Parents who only ever believe their child’s version of a story instead of hearing from the teacher are also opponents.
Actively engaging in a partnership looks like a trust fall. You might feel unsafe because “no one knows your child like you do.” However, trusting that your child’s teacher is a professional and has the best interest at heart for your child is key. One way to build this trust and partnership is to check any emotionally charged thoughts you have at the door before your conference.
Go into the meeting with a deep breath and a level head. Trust that your child’s teacher has intentions geared towards partnering with you and your child for a successful year.
Plan ahead for difficult conversations.
No child is perfect, and chances are good that your child’s teacher might bring up an area of weakness that your child can work on. When hearing this, know that the teacher is not criticizing you, your parenting, or even your child. What the teacher is doing, though, is trying to support you and your child in correcting behavior now. It is better to correct it now when the consequences are smaller, rather than when they are older and consequences carry greater weight.
Shame never works, so don’t use it.
When parents find themselves at their wits’ end with a child, they often resort to speaking negatively about their child (in front of their child) in order to shame them into obedience. In all my years of teaching, I have never seen this work, and I don’t anticipate that ever changing. In addition to not being productive, shame damages the relationship between the parent and the student. It also makes everyone around feel super uncomfortable.
Consequences are fine; shame is not.
At the end of the day, teachers and parents all have the same goal. Remembering the above suggestions will go far in setting your child and your child’s teacher up for a productive, successful school year so that in the end, all parties have truly been able to win at parent-teacher conferences.