Parent Teacher Conferences

I've got two of them today.

Would any teachers mind talking about best practices and worst practices for parents for conferences? Aside from the obvious (don't start a verbal confrontation with your teacher). Horror stories also, of course, always welcome.

67 thoughts on “Parent Teacher Conferences”

  1. Former junior high school teacher here….my favorite thing at conferences was when parents would say, “They don’t act like that at home!” To which I always bit my tongue but wanted to say, “You don’t have 30 7th graders at home!”Don’t forget hormones + social pressures really do make your kid into a different person away from home!

  2. Former junior high school teacher here….my favorite thing at conferences was when parents would say, “They don’t act like that at home!” To which I always bit my tongue but wanted to say, “You don’t have 30 7th graders at home!”Don’t forget hormones + social pressures really do make your kid into a different person away from home!

  3. Sure: Remember that 15 minutes isn’t much time. Don’t waste it. Listen to their report and ask short questions if needed to clarify anything. Have a list of things you’d like to tell or ask the teacher and stick with it- like a grocery list, you’ll be sorry if you go without one. You spend all that time/money and come home without anything to eat.

  4. Sure: Remember that 15 minutes isn’t much time. Don’t waste it. Listen to their report and ask short questions if needed to clarify anything. Have a list of things you’d like to tell or ask the teacher and stick with it- like a grocery list, you’ll be sorry if you go without one. You spend all that time/money and come home without anything to eat.

  5. Former high school teacher here. Parent teacher conferences can be (as I’m sure most of you with school-age children have experienced)either very productive, helpful, and healing, or they can be infuriating, a waste of time, and hurtful for all involved. My school did not have routine conferences (as in, at the end of each grading period, for example), so these suggestions will reflect that.1. If you have scheduled the conference, try to give the teacher a brief outline of why you are calling the conference and what you’d like to discuss. If the teacher requests to meet, ask him/her to do the same before the meeting. For example, you may say, “We are really concerned about Jane’s writing grade. Could you possibly bring some examples of typical writing of hers, as well as examples of what you expect?” Then the teacher is not stuck trying to come up with something off the top of her head, or giving vague examples because she wasn’t able to prepare.
    Preparing in this manner also helps both parties to come to the meeting open and ready to talk, rather than feeling defensive and wondering how the meeting will go.
    2. If you are coming to the meeting with concerns because your child has told you disturbing/weird/annoying things about the teacher, start by assuming those things are untrue, or at least greatly exaggerated. They may very well turn out to be true, and you can deal with them at that point, but starting the meeting by accusing the teacher of doing something heinous/cruel/stupid isn’t good. Trust me. It hurts.
    3. Be truthful. I had parents come to me complaining that their child’s grades were much lower in my class than in all other classes (or in past years) and demanding to know what I was doing wrong to cause this, only to find out later that their child’s achievement in my class was on par with past or current classes. I don’t know what these parents were trying to achieve by telling me these things, but they are not helpful in the least in solving whatever the problem truly is.
    I also had a situation with a boy who had gone off of ADHD medication for the first time in 8 years the week before school started. We had multiple phone calls, conferences, emails, etc. trying to determine what was going on with this kid’s behavior (and it was BAD) over several months before the parents chose to mention this little fact. I realize that they may not have wanted me to judge their son, jump to conclusions about the situation, etc. but we were able to much more appropriately address the problems once I knew what was going on.
    Obviously, there may be information that truly is better kept private, and only you can determine that, but if you’re comfortable, it will really help the teacher to know that you’re going through a divorce, a family member has just died, the child has had a change in medication, etc.
    I write all of this assuming that the teacher in question is a reasonable, caring, intelligent human being, as most teachers are, but I do realize that there are certainly terrible exceptions who must be handled accordingly. If you are dealing with one of those teachers, try to be mature and go through the proper channels (administration, counselors, etc.) in order to have your concerns handled only after trying to deal with the teacher first. It really sucks to be called down to the principal’s office (as a teacher) to discuss a problem that you don’t even know about yet.

  6. Former high school teacher here. Parent teacher conferences can be (as I’m sure most of you with school-age children have experienced)either very productive, helpful, and healing, or they can be infuriating, a waste of time, and hurtful for all involved. My school did not have routine conferences (as in, at the end of each grading period, for example), so these suggestions will reflect that.1. If you have scheduled the conference, try to give the teacher a brief outline of why you are calling the conference and what you’d like to discuss. If the teacher requests to meet, ask him/her to do the same before the meeting. For example, you may say, “We are really concerned about Jane’s writing grade. Could you possibly bring some examples of typical writing of hers, as well as examples of what you expect?” Then the teacher is not stuck trying to come up with something off the top of her head, or giving vague examples because she wasn’t able to prepare.
    Preparing in this manner also helps both parties to come to the meeting open and ready to talk, rather than feeling defensive and wondering how the meeting will go.
    2. If you are coming to the meeting with concerns because your child has told you disturbing/weird/annoying things about the teacher, start by assuming those things are untrue, or at least greatly exaggerated. They may very well turn out to be true, and you can deal with them at that point, but starting the meeting by accusing the teacher of doing something heinous/cruel/stupid isn’t good. Trust me. It hurts.
    3. Be truthful. I had parents come to me complaining that their child’s grades were much lower in my class than in all other classes (or in past years) and demanding to know what I was doing wrong to cause this, only to find out later that their child’s achievement in my class was on par with past or current classes. I don’t know what these parents were trying to achieve by telling me these things, but they are not helpful in the least in solving whatever the problem truly is.
    I also had a situation with a boy who had gone off of ADHD medication for the first time in 8 years the week before school started. We had multiple phone calls, conferences, emails, etc. trying to determine what was going on with this kid’s behavior (and it was BAD) over several months before the parents chose to mention this little fact. I realize that they may not have wanted me to judge their son, jump to conclusions about the situation, etc. but we were able to much more appropriately address the problems once I knew what was going on.
    Obviously, there may be information that truly is better kept private, and only you can determine that, but if you’re comfortable, it will really help the teacher to know that you’re going through a divorce, a family member has just died, the child has had a change in medication, etc.
    I write all of this assuming that the teacher in question is a reasonable, caring, intelligent human being, as most teachers are, but I do realize that there are certainly terrible exceptions who must be handled accordingly. If you are dealing with one of those teachers, try to be mature and go through the proper channels (administration, counselors, etc.) in order to have your concerns handled only after trying to deal with the teacher first. It really sucks to be called down to the principal’s office (as a teacher) to discuss a problem that you don’t even know about yet.

  7. Thank them. Sincerely. Even if you don’t love them. Thank them.Insightful teachers know that any questions you ask are for the love of your child. That being said, remember your whole child…the social, the emotional, the creative, the academic, the character. The whole package.

  8. Thank them. Sincerely. Even if you don’t love them. Thank them.Insightful teachers know that any questions you ask are for the love of your child. That being said, remember your whole child…the social, the emotional, the creative, the academic, the character. The whole package.

  9. It is really helpful to know about stuff going on outside of the classroom that may be relevant to stuff inside it; that isn’t always obvious to a teacher, especially with a lot of kids to keep track of, and I’ve had really productive conversations with parents about that. If your kid seems to be studying too little or too much, or doesn’t seem to feel rewarded commensurate with the work he or she is putting in, that’s good to know, especially if you have the sort of shy or self-contained kid who would never mention that sort of thing. It’s also good to know if there’s something going on that might be really affecting your child’s self-esteem, focus, emotional stability, etc., unless there are privacy issues that prevent that. (This goes for good stuff as well as bad — we like hearing happy things! And if your kid is having a really positive experience in the class, please please please mention that.)If there are problems, it’s important to approach them in a constructive spirit — remembering that you *and* the teacher both want what’s best for the kid, although you may have different perspectives on what that might be and what the kid’s needs and personality are like. (I also taught middle school and yeah, there can be some real differences in perspective on personality between home and school — positive as well as negative.) It’s important that you share information the teacher needs to teach the child effectively, but also that you listen to the teacher’s assessment openmindedly (some parents have major blind spots about their kids, especially since they typically haven’t met as many kids that age as teachers so they may not have a realistic sense of how their kids’ abilities and needs compare to the norm — not saying this is you, but the teacher is always going to be concerned that it *might* be you until you get to know each other).
    Advocate for your kid, but be sympathetic to the fact that there are other kids in that room — maybe a lot of kids — and the teacher is not going to design the entire classroom around one kid’s needs. If you have things you want to see implemented, the more practical they are, and the more they are things that can benefit students other than your kid, the better. The teacher is already overworked, so proposals you make need to be realistic or open to compromise. If your kid has unusual needs, the teacher may need to be educated about those; be prepared to do that in a nonjudgmental and easily digestible way.

  10. It is really helpful to know about stuff going on outside of the classroom that may be relevant to stuff inside it; that isn’t always obvious to a teacher, especially with a lot of kids to keep track of, and I’ve had really productive conversations with parents about that. If your kid seems to be studying too little or too much, or doesn’t seem to feel rewarded commensurate with the work he or she is putting in, that’s good to know, especially if you have the sort of shy or self-contained kid who would never mention that sort of thing. It’s also good to know if there’s something going on that might be really affecting your child’s self-esteem, focus, emotional stability, etc., unless there are privacy issues that prevent that. (This goes for good stuff as well as bad — we like hearing happy things! And if your kid is having a really positive experience in the class, please please please mention that.)If there are problems, it’s important to approach them in a constructive spirit — remembering that you *and* the teacher both want what’s best for the kid, although you may have different perspectives on what that might be and what the kid’s needs and personality are like. (I also taught middle school and yeah, there can be some real differences in perspective on personality between home and school — positive as well as negative.) It’s important that you share information the teacher needs to teach the child effectively, but also that you listen to the teacher’s assessment openmindedly (some parents have major blind spots about their kids, especially since they typically haven’t met as many kids that age as teachers so they may not have a realistic sense of how their kids’ abilities and needs compare to the norm — not saying this is you, but the teacher is always going to be concerned that it *might* be you until you get to know each other).
    Advocate for your kid, but be sympathetic to the fact that there are other kids in that room — maybe a lot of kids — and the teacher is not going to design the entire classroom around one kid’s needs. If you have things you want to see implemented, the more practical they are, and the more they are things that can benefit students other than your kid, the better. The teacher is already overworked, so proposals you make need to be realistic or open to compromise. If your kid has unusual needs, the teacher may need to be educated about those; be prepared to do that in a nonjudgmental and easily digestible way.

  11. I’m a high school teacher, so the issues are different, but I know that one thing I think is important is working together on an idea of the goals for the student for a set duration of time. Maybe it’s just that you both want to see the student performing a particular academic task by the next conference. Maybe it’s that you both agree that he should learn to stop interrupting other people. Whatever it is, if you come to it together as a goal it increases the likelihood of him achieving the goal and thus making you, the student, and the teacher feel like you’ve accomplished something.Since I’m often meeting with the parents of my advisees and not necessarily the students in my classroom, I tend to ask a lot of questions of parents to get them talking, get them comfortable, and help them feel heard. If you’re meeting with a teacher and he or she isn’t letting you talk — forgive them, they may be really nervous. Our Parents’ Day is my most nervous day of the year by far.
    Also, if you can disarm the teacher with a compliment, even one as little as, “My son Alberto came home just going on and on about the solar system activity you guys did last week–he clearly had a blast” that will go a long way to setting a positive tone.

  12. I’m a high school teacher, so the issues are different, but I know that one thing I think is important is working together on an idea of the goals for the student for a set duration of time. Maybe it’s just that you both want to see the student performing a particular academic task by the next conference. Maybe it’s that you both agree that he should learn to stop interrupting other people. Whatever it is, if you come to it together as a goal it increases the likelihood of him achieving the goal and thus making you, the student, and the teacher feel like you’ve accomplished something.Since I’m often meeting with the parents of my advisees and not necessarily the students in my classroom, I tend to ask a lot of questions of parents to get them talking, get them comfortable, and help them feel heard. If you’re meeting with a teacher and he or she isn’t letting you talk — forgive them, they may be really nervous. Our Parents’ Day is my most nervous day of the year by far.
    Also, if you can disarm the teacher with a compliment, even one as little as, “My son Alberto came home just going on and on about the solar system activity you guys did last week–he clearly had a blast” that will go a long way to setting a positive tone.

  13. @Joceline & @Andromeda, you guys said it so well. I hate it when things around here degenerate into teacher-related horror stories and you guys have set the tone perfectly. ITA with everything you’ve said and could not have done better.The only thing I have to add is remember not to ambush. The parent-teacher conference (the short one everyone’s required to do, not the special meeting) is not the place for an ambush. If you have an issue that will require a great deal of discussion or more than one meeting to address, those 15 minutes are not the time to spring it on the teacher. Certainly don’t keep it from him/her, but maybe table it until there’s more time to give it the attention it deserves. Pretty much Joceline’s #1.
    Also, remember the teacher is just as anxious about conferences as you are. Try not to go in with guns loaded. You all may be pleasantly surprised by how well it goes!

  14. @Joceline & @Andromeda, you guys said it so well. I hate it when things around here degenerate into teacher-related horror stories and you guys have set the tone perfectly. ITA with everything you’ve said and could not have done better.The only thing I have to add is remember not to ambush. The parent-teacher conference (the short one everyone’s required to do, not the special meeting) is not the place for an ambush. If you have an issue that will require a great deal of discussion or more than one meeting to address, those 15 minutes are not the time to spring it on the teacher. Certainly don’t keep it from him/her, but maybe table it until there’s more time to give it the attention it deserves. Pretty much Joceline’s #1.
    Also, remember the teacher is just as anxious about conferences as you are. Try not to go in with guns loaded. You all may be pleasantly surprised by how well it goes!

  15. Such great comments above……all of them are right on. Teachers are trained to differentiate their assignments, so if your oldest is sailing through his work and it is too easy, don’t be afraid to initiate a conversation about that. You’re not asking for the moon, you’re asking for your child to get something out of the 6 hours per day he spends in class. It’s not going to be every minute of every day enriching and challenging, but I’d say at least 60% of his day should be something worth his while.Aside from that……as a teacher who is currently in the middle of doing conferences herself…..PLEASE do what you can to be on time. We schedule conferences back-to-back-to-back and when one person is 10 minutes late for a 20 minute conversation it backs everyone else up. And also….show up. I’ve had a couple no-shows, and it just breaks my heart for the kids who see their parents de-value their education like that. (not directed at you Moxie……or actually any of your readers. Except I’m sitting here waiting for my next appointment and I’m afraid they may not show. And this is one I really need to have……)

  16. Such great comments above……all of them are right on. Teachers are trained to differentiate their assignments, so if your oldest is sailing through his work and it is too easy, don’t be afraid to initiate a conversation about that. You’re not asking for the moon, you’re asking for your child to get something out of the 6 hours per day he spends in class. It’s not going to be every minute of every day enriching and challenging, but I’d say at least 60% of his day should be something worth his while.Aside from that……as a teacher who is currently in the middle of doing conferences herself…..PLEASE do what you can to be on time. We schedule conferences back-to-back-to-back and when one person is 10 minutes late for a 20 minute conversation it backs everyone else up. And also….show up. I’ve had a couple no-shows, and it just breaks my heart for the kids who see their parents de-value their education like that. (not directed at you Moxie……or actually any of your readers. Except I’m sitting here waiting for my next appointment and I’m afraid they may not show. And this is one I really need to have……)

  17. I taught jr. high for one year (now I teach college) so here’s a bit of advice/horror story: do not bring your son/daughter to the parent/teacher conference and then start a confrontation with the teacher in front of your kid! Um, just in case any of you were planning to do that. :)Joint conferences with the parent/teacher/student can definitely be useful, but the parent and the teacher should communicate about it ahead of time.

  18. I taught jr. high for one year (now I teach college) so here’s a bit of advice/horror story: do not bring your son/daughter to the parent/teacher conference and then start a confrontation with the teacher in front of your kid! Um, just in case any of you were planning to do that. :)Joint conferences with the parent/teacher/student can definitely be useful, but the parent and the teacher should communicate about it ahead of time.

  19. Current Parent Educator here—Don’t forget about the child either.The tendency can be “we met with your teacher and we agree about your behavior and now your life WILL change.”
    Try creating a plan to help the child manage the situation for themselves versus going home and taking things away and punishing to get cooperation or better listening or whatever you’re after. Brainstorming helps a child feel as if they are part of the decision making process versus feeling as if it’s being done to them.

  20. Current Parent Educator here—Don’t forget about the child either.The tendency can be “we met with your teacher and we agree about your behavior and now your life WILL change.”
    Try creating a plan to help the child manage the situation for themselves versus going home and taking things away and punishing to get cooperation or better listening or whatever you’re after. Brainstorming helps a child feel as if they are part of the decision making process versus feeling as if it’s being done to them.

  21. Thank you thank you thank you to the teachers, past and present, who posted here. Incredibly useful & helpful information.I know–useful and helpful information to be found at Ask Moxie?! Shocking!

  22. Thank you thank you thank you to the teachers, past and present, who posted here. Incredibly useful & helpful information.I know–useful and helpful information to be found at Ask Moxie?! Shocking!

  23. love you guys for all the helpful advice- i can’t believe we have parent/teacher conferences for the pnut! she’s 3! in nursery! yeesh!! they grow up so fast…sniff…thanks, everyone!!

  24. love you guys for all the helpful advice- i can’t believe we have parent/teacher conferences for the pnut! she’s 3! in nursery! yeesh!! they grow up so fast…sniff…thanks, everyone!!

  25. Don’t come in defensive! If you teacher is having a meeting because of discipline problems, it’s probably because your child actually IS acting like a little jerk. If it is because of academic issues, it is because your child is IN FACT having academic issues.They don’t like having to tell you that there is something wrong with your kid anymore than you like hearing it, but they aren’t just making stuff up.
    And it isn’t the teacher’s job to fix the kids- they can only do so much. I have never been as angry in my life as when a parent once told me: “We’ll, it’s YOUR JOB to make him act better. It sounds to me like you’re just a bad teacher.” Um, no, it isn’t the teacher’s job to make your kid stop lying/stealing/hitting/bullying. It’s a teacher’s job to TEACH them things.
    Sorry…to many bad experiences, I guess!
    Another very important courtesy: be on time! One late parent messes up the whole day.

  26. Don’t come in defensive! If you teacher is having a meeting because of discipline problems, it’s probably because your child actually IS acting like a little jerk. If it is because of academic issues, it is because your child is IN FACT having academic issues.They don’t like having to tell you that there is something wrong with your kid anymore than you like hearing it, but they aren’t just making stuff up.
    And it isn’t the teacher’s job to fix the kids- they can only do so much. I have never been as angry in my life as when a parent once told me: “We’ll, it’s YOUR JOB to make him act better. It sounds to me like you’re just a bad teacher.” Um, no, it isn’t the teacher’s job to make your kid stop lying/stealing/hitting/bullying. It’s a teacher’s job to TEACH them things.
    Sorry…to many bad experiences, I guess!
    Another very important courtesy: be on time! One late parent messes up the whole day.

  27. Thanks so much for these suggestions and insights. My oldest (2.5!) is in preschool and we have conferences in early December. These are all great suggestions and ones I will keep in mind for our meeting!

  28. Thanks so much for these suggestions and insights. My oldest (2.5!) is in preschool and we have conferences in early December. These are all great suggestions and ones I will keep in mind for our meeting!

  29. Lots of good stuff up there, but just wanted to add, as a former PreK and current HS teacher… please do not ask the teacher if they “like” your child. I get this all the time and it baffling to me. It is very disrespectful of the difficult profession that is teaching and insinuates that the teacher has favorites. A good teacher loves all of his or her students and wants to help them learn. “Liking” is something that happens socially. School is not social time for a teacher.

  30. Lots of good stuff up there, but just wanted to add, as a former PreK and current HS teacher… please do not ask the teacher if they “like” your child. I get this all the time and it baffling to me. It is very disrespectful of the difficult profession that is teaching and insinuates that the teacher has favorites. A good teacher loves all of his or her students and wants to help them learn. “Liking” is something that happens socially. School is not social time for a teacher.

  31. I totally understand that parents can be difficult. I have lots of friends/families who are teachers. I hear their stories about the parents and kids. BUT I also hear the way that they talk about the parents/kids (not very respectfully all the time) and about each other. And, this goes for all of them, across this board.I agree parents should be on time and courteous. But, this is their CHILD. Can the teachers not understand this as well? Why is it that the parents have to be the one not being defensive? Going in and having to praise/thank the teacher to set the tone for the conference? Shouldn’t these things go both ways? Just asking . . .

  32. I totally understand that parents can be difficult. I have lots of friends/families who are teachers. I hear their stories about the parents and kids. BUT I also hear the way that they talk about the parents/kids (not very respectfully all the time) and about each other. And, this goes for all of them, across this board.I agree parents should be on time and courteous. But, this is their CHILD. Can the teachers not understand this as well? Why is it that the parents have to be the one not being defensive? Going in and having to praise/thank the teacher to set the tone for the conference? Shouldn’t these things go both ways? Just asking . . .

  33. Sorry, only skimmed comments but saw Joceline’s comments above and wanted to second her lines.I’m a teacher and am late at school today to prep for my conferences so they aren’t just a waste of time for families. I always feel empty when it is assembly-line style and work to avoid that.
    Unfortunately, the 15-minute allotment we are given is far too short. It makes me feel like I’m a doctor in managed care and must get to the root of the problem immediately, no small talk, please! (Obviously I’m kidding a bit here.) But, for parents, I do recommend thinking of it like your pediatrician check-up appointment; be prepared with questions, concerns, and, yes, praise if that applies. Feel free to bring a notebook and pen/pencil. Personally I am not remotely offendend when an adult does that; just means that if they ask me for a specific suggestion they will try to follow it at home.
    I am on the other side, too, and recently put on my parent hat for a conference with my son’s teacher. Wow. His teachers are terrific but I found myself wanting so much more than 15 minutes, practically wanting to yell out, “my son is special just by virtue of being my son, and I want you to prove to me that you know all his intricacies and don’t give me the silly double-speak I can take it!” Again, his teachers are great. But I wanted more, (and some irrational part in me wanted to come out… I controlled it though).
    I honestly think the way to learn more about your child in the school setting is to see if it is at all possible to be on some silly committee or help a specific teacher out in some way, even for a week. This is almost impossible for me to do in a meaningful way due to schedules not matching up but I am brainstorming how to do it. I know most other parents do find it impossible but, hey, you never know.
    The pediatrician comparison falls down here because as a parent, I want to know that the adults with whom my child spends more waking hours with than me are doing everything that can be done in every area. Highly impossible to measure, defend, or even explain in a 15-minute conference.
    Sigh.

  34. Sorry, only skimmed comments but saw Joceline’s comments above and wanted to second her lines.I’m a teacher and am late at school today to prep for my conferences so they aren’t just a waste of time for families. I always feel empty when it is assembly-line style and work to avoid that.
    Unfortunately, the 15-minute allotment we are given is far too short. It makes me feel like I’m a doctor in managed care and must get to the root of the problem immediately, no small talk, please! (Obviously I’m kidding a bit here.) But, for parents, I do recommend thinking of it like your pediatrician check-up appointment; be prepared with questions, concerns, and, yes, praise if that applies. Feel free to bring a notebook and pen/pencil. Personally I am not remotely offendend when an adult does that; just means that if they ask me for a specific suggestion they will try to follow it at home.
    I am on the other side, too, and recently put on my parent hat for a conference with my son’s teacher. Wow. His teachers are terrific but I found myself wanting so much more than 15 minutes, practically wanting to yell out, “my son is special just by virtue of being my son, and I want you to prove to me that you know all his intricacies and don’t give me the silly double-speak I can take it!” Again, his teachers are great. But I wanted more, (and some irrational part in me wanted to come out… I controlled it though).
    I honestly think the way to learn more about your child in the school setting is to see if it is at all possible to be on some silly committee or help a specific teacher out in some way, even for a week. This is almost impossible for me to do in a meaningful way due to schedules not matching up but I am brainstorming how to do it. I know most other parents do find it impossible but, hey, you never know.
    The pediatrician comparison falls down here because as a parent, I want to know that the adults with whom my child spends more waking hours with than me are doing everything that can be done in every area. Highly impossible to measure, defend, or even explain in a 15-minute conference.
    Sigh.

  35. Sorry, only skimmed comments but saw Joceline’s comments above and wanted to second her lines.I’m a teacher and am late at school today to prep for my conferences so they aren’t just a waste of time for families. I always feel empty when it is assembly-line style and work to avoid that.
    Unfortunately, the 15-minute allotment we are given is far too short. It makes me feel like I’m a doctor in managed care and must get to the root of the problem immediately, no small talk, please! (Obviously I’m kidding a bit here.) But, for parents, I do recommend thinking of it like your pediatrician check-up appointment; be prepared with questions, concerns, and, yes, praise if that applies. Feel free to bring a notebook and pen/pencil. Personally I am not remotely offendend when an adult does that; just means that if they ask me for a specific suggestion they will try to follow it at home.
    I am on the other side, too, and recently put on my parent hat for a conference with my son’s teacher. Wow. His teachers are terrific but I found myself wanting so much more than 15 minutes, practically wanting to yell out, “my son is special just by virtue of being my son, and I want you to prove to me that you know all his intricacies and don’t give me the silly double-speak I can take it!” Again, his teachers are great. But I wanted more, (and some irrational part in me wanted to come out… I controlled it though).
    I honestly think the way to learn more about your child in the school setting is to see if it is at all possible to be on some silly committee or help a specific teacher out in some way, even for a week. This is almost impossible for me to do in a meaningful way due to schedules not matching up but I am brainstorming how to do it. I know most other parents do find it impossible but, hey, you never know.
    The pediatrician comparison falls down here because as a parent, I want to know that the adults with whom my child spends more waking hours with than me are doing everything that can be done in every area. Highly impossible to measure, defend, or even explain in a 15-minute conference.
    Sigh.

  36. One more thing to add -Don’t let any irrational parent guilt seep in. It can be difficult to listen to a teacher tell you your child is struggling and to defend your child or your home or even yourself. Your child clearly could be different at school than at home, (certainly that happens), and even if your child is a real terror or you are hearing for the first time that there are some learning difficulties, it absolutely does NOT make you a bad parent! I’ve spent some conferences consoling the parents instead of focusing on next steps. I understand when that needs to happen but please try to walk in knowing that your child is not you. (and as a mom I do struggle with this, too)
    As a corrolary, please please please don’t tell me that your child’s younger or older sibling or cousin or even you didn’t require whatever recommendation I give to you in sincerity. Different people need different things, even people who are related 🙂

  37. One more thing to add -Don’t let any irrational parent guilt seep in. It can be difficult to listen to a teacher tell you your child is struggling and to defend your child or your home or even yourself. Your child clearly could be different at school than at home, (certainly that happens), and even if your child is a real terror or you are hearing for the first time that there are some learning difficulties, it absolutely does NOT make you a bad parent! I’ve spent some conferences consoling the parents instead of focusing on next steps. I understand when that needs to happen but please try to walk in knowing that your child is not you. (and as a mom I do struggle with this, too)
    As a corrolary, please please please don’t tell me that your child’s younger or older sibling or cousin or even you didn’t require whatever recommendation I give to you in sincerity. Different people need different things, even people who are related 🙂

  38. One more thing to add -Don’t let any irrational parent guilt seep in. It can be difficult to listen to a teacher tell you your child is struggling and to defend your child or your home or even yourself. Your child clearly could be different at school than at home, (certainly that happens), and even if your child is a real terror or you are hearing for the first time that there are some learning difficulties, it absolutely does NOT make you a bad parent! I’ve spent some conferences consoling the parents instead of focusing on next steps. I understand when that needs to happen but please try to walk in knowing that your child is not you. (and as a mom I do struggle with this, too)
    As a corrolary, please please please don’t tell me that your child’s younger or older sibling or cousin or even you didn’t require whatever recommendation I give to you in sincerity. Different people need different things, even people who are related 🙂

  39. @Jen, I totally agree. As a teacher, it is critical to open each and every conference talking about a student’s strengths. It is absolutely unacceptable to start right off with “Your child needs to…..” and begin the big laundry list of things the student needs to do to get it together…..even if there IS a big laundry list, it can wait while you put everyone at ease and talk about the positive aspects of working with that student. I believe it is the teacher’s responsibility to set the tone for the conference and start things off positively – much more so than the parent. We are the professionals here. It is so important to remember that these children are the light of each parent’s life, their pride and joy and their reason for getting up every single day (often at the crack of dawn).I think, though, that it is equally important that the parents remember that their child is one of many students the teacher encounters, one of many conferences this teacher must have, and while time may be limited, to present concerns and questions in a collaborative tone as opposed to an accusatory tone. “Why haven’t you been challenging my child?” puts many teachers on the defensive, and would be heard much better if it were phrased, “I’m noticing that the math is getting done rather quickly. I’m wondering if there are things that can be done to challenge her in math a little bit more…” and opening things up to a dialogue.
    And as a teacher it’s nice to hear praise and thanks, but really that’s not what I’m looking for when I have a conference. I want to talk about the student, their work, address questions and concerns, and set academic, organizational, and behavioral goals for the year. But always, ALWAYS, it’s important to start a conversation with parents talking about the wonderful things about their child. It’s not that hard to find some in each and every child. And often, parents come defensive to conferences because they’ve had YEARS of hearing bad things. It’s amazing how much softer they become, within seconds, if you just spend some time talking with them about the things you enjoy about their child.

  40. @Jen, I totally agree. As a teacher, it is critical to open each and every conference talking about a student’s strengths. It is absolutely unacceptable to start right off with “Your child needs to…..” and begin the big laundry list of things the student needs to do to get it together…..even if there IS a big laundry list, it can wait while you put everyone at ease and talk about the positive aspects of working with that student. I believe it is the teacher’s responsibility to set the tone for the conference and start things off positively – much more so than the parent. We are the professionals here. It is so important to remember that these children are the light of each parent’s life, their pride and joy and their reason for getting up every single day (often at the crack of dawn).I think, though, that it is equally important that the parents remember that their child is one of many students the teacher encounters, one of many conferences this teacher must have, and while time may be limited, to present concerns and questions in a collaborative tone as opposed to an accusatory tone. “Why haven’t you been challenging my child?” puts many teachers on the defensive, and would be heard much better if it were phrased, “I’m noticing that the math is getting done rather quickly. I’m wondering if there are things that can be done to challenge her in math a little bit more…” and opening things up to a dialogue.
    And as a teacher it’s nice to hear praise and thanks, but really that’s not what I’m looking for when I have a conference. I want to talk about the student, their work, address questions and concerns, and set academic, organizational, and behavioral goals for the year. But always, ALWAYS, it’s important to start a conversation with parents talking about the wonderful things about their child. It’s not that hard to find some in each and every child. And often, parents come defensive to conferences because they’ve had YEARS of hearing bad things. It’s amazing how much softer they become, within seconds, if you just spend some time talking with them about the things you enjoy about their child.

  41. I agree with Julie; it is OUR job, as the professionals, to set the tone for the conference, and it’s usually easy to do this: there’s something to enjoy about almost every kid. (Sometimes it’s harder to find the good in the rare kids who steal your personal belongings or assault your colleagues.)Here’s an important one: Be willing to ask for a phone call if the conference time is too limited to get to the bottom of whatever you need to discuss. Do not attempt to handle a big, emotionally loaded issue over a series of follow-up emails. Also, don’t come to a conference to argue about points; deciding how to assess work is a teacher’s job, and they apply their professional training to make grades reflect a student’s mastery of learning goals. Explaining grading is a teacher’s job, letting parents set the grading protocol is not.
    I am really demoralized, currently, because a good friend and excellent teacher in my department is leaving high school to become a vet. The attacking emails (for crazy things!) are just too much. It only takes 1 or 2 crazy parents a year sometimes to make a teacher decide the career just isn’t worth it, when you could get more respect (and lots more money) doing something else. Some of you have mentioned that you don’t want to be the “crazy parent,” but my experience as a teacher is that they get what they want and drive good people out of the profession at the same time.
    Oops. Sorry to vent so much.

  42. As a teacher and a parent, the most important thing is honesty. I was never more impressed than by the mom I had last week who asked me, “is Jack slacking off, or is he really a C student?” She was so willing to be realistic about the situation at hand, and we were able to have a great conference about his strengths and weaknesses, and ways to improve his performance.Also, use your words! Avoid inflammatory words and phrases – anything that might get tempers up. My oldest daughter’s teacher, in various emails to me, has now used the phrases “gang up,” “really disturbing,” and “not nice at all.” My kid is 4. As a teacher, I know that there are more neutral (to say nothing of constructive) ways to phrase these things. Her teacher… doesn’t.
    Finally, talk about the divorce. Tell your son’s teacher what’s going on at home, what your custody arrangements look like, whether the boys have been acting differently lately because of it, etc. My oldest has a crying jag at school at least once a week – I miss Daddy, etc. The teacher knows our situation, and is (theoretically, if she weren’t such a lazy slag) able to help deal with the divorce fallout on her end.
    Finally, remember – you guys are supposed to be on the same team! Team “Let’s Make This Kid Succeed.” She is not the enemy. Her job, like yours, is to help your kid grow and learn and do his best. Only, you have two kids, and she has 150…

  43. Not a lot of time to read all of the comments as I am writing report cards right now (middle school English teacher). Jocelyn pretty much summed it up perfectly. The only thing I would add is that you don’t have to wait for parent teacher conferences or student led conferences to talk to you child’s teacher. If you have a concern call right away.I also want to reiterate what Jocelyn said about giving the teacher the benefit of the doubt. I had a situation this year where a parent did not give me the benefit of the doubt and came at me guns blazing. I’m still reeling from it even though I stood my ground. Very hurtful, caused me way to much stress and took up way too much of my time. If the parent had only approached it more reasonably and admitted that perhaps her 12 year old son maybe, possibly, made a mistake, things could have been much better. Alas, she did not and now we have this very awkward situation on our hands.

  44. Okay, so I got hooked and read the rest of the comments. Someone mentioned something about getting the child involved in creating a plan etc.. for improvement or change or whatever the case may be. In Canada we actually have Student Led Conferences where the student is more than encouraged to attend the conference, it is them that run it. They share some work they’ve done and then the three or four of us talk about any issues. I think it is crucial to have students invovled in the decisions about THEIR learning. It is an important way to teach them how to be life long learners.

  45. First grade teacher here, just home from my first (of two) conference nights this week. My single best piece of advice is to remember that, you and the teacher are on the same team, and act accordingly. As a teacher, parents are invaluable to me because they have known their child longer than I have, and knowing how things are handled at home can help me handle them in the classroom. My best partnerships have been with parents who held this same belief about me — that I may know things about their child that they don’t know or see, and that getting my perspective is helpful to them, as well. I go into interviews believing that parents love their children, care about their social and academic progress, and want the best for them. I appreciate parents who walk into my classroom believing the same things about me.

  46. Give your email address to the teacher, and be willing have your first line of communication be electronic rather than by phone. It’s so much easier to stay in touch with families when you can send off an email at 6:30 am, or attach a picture of the student’s recent work, or write a message during the 15 minutes you have to eat your lunch. Family conferences, for me, are the most useful when they lead to a continued conversation.

  47. When you have a beef with the school or the teacher, ask the student directly if he or she has any insight into the situation before you march up to the school with pitchforks. I am thinking in particular of a young math teacher I know who had called home midterm to let parents know the student had a bad grade. Well, the parents never got the message because when the grades came, they blew up saying they were never notified and had several meetings sans child with the teacher before finally bringing their teenaged son up to the school AND the lawyer.The teacher, who had documented that he’d called them, knew the student had probably deleted the message, but didn’t accuse. Just sat quietly while the administration handled the meeting. Several minutes into the meeting, the principal asked the student point blank, “Did you get the message on the answering machine?” To which he replied, “Yes, I deleted it.” His parents, flabbergasted and embarrassed, asked him, “Well, why didn’t you tell us?!!!”
    “You never asked me.”

  48. When you have a beef with the school or the teacher, ask the student directly if he or she has any insight into the situation before you march up to the school with pitchforks. I am thinking in particular of a young math teacher I know who had called home midterm to let parents know the student had a bad grade. Well, the parents never got the message because when the grades came, they blew up saying they were never notified and had several meetings sans child with the teacher before finally bringing their teenaged son up to the school AND the lawyer.The teacher, who had documented that he’d called them, knew the student had probably deleted the message, but didn’t accuse. Just sat quietly while the administration handled the meeting. Several minutes into the meeting, the principal asked the student point blank, “Did you get the message on the answering machine?” To which he replied, “Yes, I deleted it.” His parents, flabbergasted and embarrassed, asked him, “Well, why didn’t you tell us?!!!”
    “You never asked me.”

  49. Does anyone have advice for a preschool teacher conference in which the teacher is forcefully disagreeing with some of our parenting choices?My son is not toilet-trained, and is on the late side to be still in diapers… we tried late last spring, got him fairly comfortable and confident at home and then he had some accidents at preschool and got very scared and gunshy. Then since then I’ve had a horrible pregnancy (hyperemesis, essentially on bedrest for the first half, now doing better but can’t watch him more than a few hours a day, which isn’t enough in my opinion to work seriously and get my son’s confidence back). We plan to practice but not work seriously until after the baby comes and life is settled, and I actually scheduled a consult with our pediatrician, who agrees very strongly with me that it’s better to wait than do it now with a sick mom and a school setting that doesn’t feel safe.
    Teacher is extremely concerned about our son, not at all reassured by the pediatrician, is “losing sleep over him,” and we have a conference with her to talk some more.
    Anyone have advice? I know she is coming from a place of real concern for our son, and I’m grateful for that, but I’m not willing to force my son to train now in a setting that he’s not comfortable in (he is happy enough at the school in general but feels pressured and embarrassed about the toilet learning) when I will be healthy again in a few months and can work with him at home.
    I think part of this is a discordance in parenting style between this teacher and myself (which is my issue, wanting her to think I am a good parent), but I would like to talk to her in a way that does what I can to keep her anxiety from spilling over into her care for my son. Obviously I’d like to reassure her for her sake, but she sees herself as an expert dealing with a parent who doesn’t have her experience or coursework on child development, she has not so far been receptive to reassurance from me.
    Sorry this is so long and hijacking the original teacher post–it’s a hard thing for me handle because I feel so helpless–I need this care for my son but I am not willing to defer to her on this.

  50. Does anyone have advice for a preschool teacher conference in which the teacher is forcefully disagreeing with some of our parenting choices?My son is not toilet-trained, and is on the late side to be still in diapers… we tried late last spring, got him fairly comfortable and confident at home and then he had some accidents at preschool and got very scared and gunshy. Then since then I’ve had a horrible pregnancy (hyperemesis, essentially on bedrest for the first half, now doing better but can’t watch him more than a few hours a day, which isn’t enough in my opinion to work seriously and get my son’s confidence back).
    We plan to practice but not train seriously until after the baby comes and life is settled, and I actually scheduled a consult with our pediatrician, who agrees very strongly with me that it’s better to wait than do it now with a sick mom and a school setting that doesn’t feel safe.
    Teacher is extremely concerned about our son, not at all reassured by the pediatrician, is “losing sleep” worrying over him and we have a conference with her to talk some more.
    Anyone have advice? I know she is coming from a place of real concern for our son, and I’m grateful for that, but I’m not willing to force my son to train now in a setting that he’s not comfortable in (he is happy enough at the school in general but feels pressured and embarrassed about the toilet learning) when I will be healthy again in a few months and can work with him at home.
    I would like to talk to her in a way that does what I can to keep her anxiety from spilling over into her care for my son.
    Sorry this is so long and hijacking the original teacher post–it’s a hard thing for me handle because I feel so helpless–I need this care for my son.

  51. @Jen-I completely agree with you that teachers need to set a good tone for the meeting, and that it is not the purpose of the meeting for the parents to get all gushy over the teacher. As I mentioned, I know that there are terrible teachers out there who come to the meeting in a confrontational manner, won’t work with the parents or students, etc. My suggestions come from the assumption that the teacher is a reasonable, professional human being.I cannot tell you how many parent-teacher conferences (or phone calls) I’ve come out of only to walk straight to a bathroom stall and cry because of how stressful the meeting was. I (as well as many other teachers I know) went to most meetings taking deep breaths, with a knot in my stomach. You frequently don’t know what you’re about it be hit with in the meeting, especially if you’ve never met the parents before.
    I assume that people who are reading and commenting on this site are not the type of parents who cause stressful meetings like that, because that’s not the type of person Moxie tends to attract. But trust me, those types of parents exist in droves, especially at the affluent suburban school where I taught. I think that it is hard for reasonable parents to understand what other parents are doing to create problems like they do, but it does happen!

  52. Heather, I was going to say the same – bring a note from the doctor, or talk to the doctor to get approval for them talking to each other (with HIPPA, in the US, you will need a signed note for the doctor to be able to talk to the teacher, and possibly for each direction).Hyperemesis sucks rocks. I didn’t have it, but my best friend did, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Things will be fine later, they just need their adjustment time, and that’s okay.
    You could also ask the doctor to write you a note to the teacher saying that this has been addressed and agreed that there is no reasonable cause for distress regarding the potty training at this time. Hey, some kids (especially boys, especially if stressed about it) will not train until 4 or 4 1/2. So…

  53. Heather–I think I might ask if the administrator of the preschool could be present for your conference (you could phrase your request for that in a really innocuous way like, “hoping we could get some additional input”). As a former preschool administrator myself, it really sounds to me like this teacher is overreaching her responsibility here, and if the administrator is any good, he/she will catch on to that quite quickly.

  54. Thank y’all so much for the encouragement. Turns out the teacher mostly wanted to be *heard*, and is now willing to go with our plan even though it’s not her first choice. Thanks–

  55. Thank y’all so much for the encouragement. Turns out the teacher mostly wanted to be *heard*, and is now willing to go with our plan even though it’s not her first choice. Thanks–

  56. everyone looked surprised, they thought Cheap Air Jordans Man spotted belly 100,000 troops on the mountain, want to get 100,000 troops to achieve this goal, in the chaotic? Li a place on the planet, but, Wang Cheap Air Jordans ‘s require large out they were expecting. Cheap Air Jordans secretly smile, in fact, anxious to get these thousands of troops, and determined to win, but, with their understanding of the nature of some difference in terminology, in the final analysis, all aimed , requires that they willingly, not under the agreement in force. the crowd because Cheap Air Jordans does not show the strength of the people immediately believe the contrary, their eyes reveal the suspect is not difficult to imagine that there is not that a slave state, but the entire ? Li planet, nor is it an era, but for generations to come, because they experienced the pain of being a slave, the heart is extremely annoying that they are slaves, hate what they become slaves and aristocrats, like the wild days Sen positions so that the liberation of slaves in the Mountain Man belly is already very great, but they never thought to liberate all the slaves, Heaven has hundreds of thousands of troops were able to use Belly Man into fierce mountain terrain to reach the dragon the two countries do nothing, but he would not dare to attack a nearby town, and their shortage of troops, not to mention a country, of course, the whole? Li slaves on the planet that is more impossible, and would like to have not thought about. Cheap Air Jordans said management is now the world’s slaves, they understand what it means, that is, all countries with the world and against the nobility, on their belly Mountain Man this force, attack a town is hard, even as the capture of a town but also how, can be indifferent watching those noble slaves occupied the city, looked at them helplessly, of course, impossible, would discredit, this is all noble things, not that a state of things. easing their stress, wild days of storage Sen said: impressive, however

  57. everyone looked surprised, they thought Cheap Air Jordans Man spotted belly 100,000 troops on the mountain, want to get 100,000 troops to achieve this goal, in the chaotic? Li a place on the planet, but, Wang Cheap Air Jordans ‘s require large out they were expecting. Cheap Air Jordans secretly smile, in fact, anxious to get these thousands of troops, and determined to win, but, with their understanding of the nature of some difference in terminology, in the final analysis, all aimed , requires that they willingly, not under the agreement in force. the crowd because Cheap Air Jordans does not show the strength of the people immediately believe the contrary, their eyes reveal the suspect is not difficult to imagine that there is not that a slave state, but the entire ? Li planet, nor is it an era, but for generations to come, because they experienced the pain of being a slave, the heart is extremely annoying that they are slaves, hate what they become slaves and aristocrats, like the wild days Sen positions so that the liberation of slaves in the Mountain Man belly is already very great, but they never thought to liberate all the slaves, Heaven has hundreds of thousands of troops were able to use Belly Man into fierce mountain terrain to reach the dragon the two countries do nothing, but he would not dare to attack a nearby town, and their shortage of troops, not to mention a country, of course, the whole? Li slaves on the planet that is more impossible, and would like to have not thought about. Cheap Air Jordans said management is now the world’s slaves, they understand what it means, that is, all countries with the world and against the nobility, on their belly Mountain Man this force, attack a town is hard, even as the capture of a town but also how, can be indifferent watching those noble slaves occupied the city, looked at them helplessly, of course, impossible, would discredit, this is all noble things, not that a state of things. easing their stress, wild days of storage Sen said: impressive, however

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *