Making Time for Parent/Teacher Conferences

LaVona S. Traywick, PhD, CFLE

University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service

Whether a student is the class genius, the class clown, the class troublemaker or somewhere in between, it is helpful to both the teacher and the child for a parent or guardian to attend parent/teacher conferences. This is the time when parents can meet the teachers that their children will be in contact with for the school-year and share information about the students.

Sometimes parents assume they don't need to attend, either because their child is doing well and they do not see any need for improvement or, in contrast, because the child is doing poorly and they don't see how a meeting will make the situation better. The assumption behind parent/teacher conferences is that both the parent and the teacher want what is best for the child, and that you will work together to benefit the child, regardless of the situation.

Most parent/teacher conferences are only around 15 minutes long, although it ranges depending on the school and grade of your child. By planning ahead you can make the most of your parent/teacher conference. Some general tips are:

1. Ask your child if there is anything that he or she would like you to discuss with the teacher.

2. Jot down everything that you want to talk about before the conference. List the most important topics first.

3. Arrive promptly or a few minutes early.

4. Begin with positive comments about the teacher or classroom.

5. Avoid lengthy discussions of topics that are not related to the purpose of the conference.

6. Be open-minded to suggestions from the teacher.

7. Keep your emotions under control.

8. Take notes about what has been discussed to share with your child.

9. Express appreciation for the conference.

10. Do not stay beyond your allotted time.

Sometimes a parent is simply unable to attend the parent/teacher conference. There are many reasons for this, such as being unable to take off work, being out of town on the assigned date, or not having transportation. There are other options than the school-set date/time for parents and teachers to meet. Contact the teacher, and ask if he or she can come early, stay late or see you on another day for an in-person meeting. If that does not work, a phone call to talk with the teacher is another option.

If you don't know how to contact your child's teacher, you can send a note with your child, call the school and ask for the teacher by name, or look up the teacher's e-mail address on the school district's webpage. Many school systems now have teacher assigned e-mail addresses. E-mailing the teacher to discuss your child can also be an effective way to communicate if you cannot meet in person or talk over the phone. As a parent, it sometimes takes that extra effort, but if you are willing to work together with the teacher, it will be beneficial for your child.

For more suggestions on a successful parent/teacher conference, check out the "Tips for Talking with Teachers" Fact Sheet FSFCS207 by Drs. LaVona Traywick and James Marshall at uaex.edu or contact your county University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service office.