Lazy Parenting Hack - Parent Teacher Conferences
“At the end of the day, the most overwhelming key to a child’s success is the positive involvement of the parent. “ - Jane D. Hull
DO YOU GO TO PARENT TEACHER CONFERENCES?
If not, how come? What stops you? No time? Teachers make you nervous? You don’t know what to say? You know your child struggles in school and you are scared of being judged? Your child doing ok and seems to be happy? You don’t want to waste your time/teacher’s time at a meeting you don’t think will help?
As a mom of 4 children, 2 in high school and 2 in elementary school, I have been to A LOT of parent teacher conferences. As a former teacher, I also have the experience and perspective from on the other side of the desk. A combined 20+ years of parent teacher interviews has taught me a lot! And, what I have learnt, in a nutshell is this…
Start the year off by going to the “Meet the Teacher” night in September. Meet the teacher, sit in the desk and listen to what they have to say. They will likely go over their curriculum and talk about expectations and rules. Find out what information can be found on the class website and how you can follow along/support your child from home. It is likely that your child’s teacher may not know who your child is yet (especially if in high school) so refrain from asking anything specific about them. Feel free to ask any questions you might have around how much homework they can expect to have from this class, if there are any supplemental textbooks that need to be purchased, what their retest policy is and what your child can do if they are struggling in class.
In the Fall, usually Oct/Nov there will be a call out to parents to sign up for parent teacher interviews. DO IT. FOR ALL THEIR TEACHERS. I truly believe that the 1st one of the year can be the most important one, especially if your children are in high school. And I am not just talking to parents who have children that may struggle in school. All parents should go—those with A’s and those with D’s.
I go for a few reasons:
To put a parent’s face to the student in their class. To show them that I am invested in my child’s education and care about how they do so that if there is ever a problem, they feel more comfortable reaching out to me at home.
To let them know that my child cares about how they do at school academically. I speak highly of my children at these meetings. For my elementary aged children, I talk about how much they love school and how they want to be challenged and engaged. For my high school aged children, I do the same. I tell the teacher that they are going for straight A’s (even if that is a bit of a stretch). I want to make sure the teachers don’t label them or judge them as mediocre students due to the friends they may be sitting with, their clothing choices or their personality. I make sure the teacher knows that I encourage AND WANT them to challenge my children and expect/demand a lot from them.
To get a glimpse into how they are doing socially at school. I ask questions around how vocal my child is, how much they contribute to class discussions, how they seem to be fitting in with peer groups, if they seem happy and animated in class, if they are polite and engaged. By asking these questions I can piece together the puzzle of what kind of student they are in class and if there is any concern or things we need to talk about at home. These questions are especially important in K-3 when your child’s schooling really is 80% social development skills. As they get older, I want to see if there are any red flags I should be aware of, any stress or anxiety triggers or clique problems.
I offer to help. I let the teachers know that I am available to help in or outside the classroom. Because of my background, I offer to share my experience as a math/science teacher and knowledge of children and teens. Any experience can be helpful and often teachers are VERY HAPPY to have parents in the class in any capacity (even putting up artwork). In the past I have come in to help with sewing projects (literally threading needles for the children over and over), baking, math enrichment, science projects and reading. Some years I have coached volleyball & basketball multiple times a week, and some years it has been only one or two visits the whole year long. This year I will be going in biweekly to do math enrichment with the grade 7’s. By being available and helping out, I get a behind the scenes look into their school life and can use that knowledge to further conversations and connections at home.
I confirm their support of my children in their extra-curricular sports & activities. I let them know that in our family, we place a lot of value on extra-curricular school sports/clubs as well as community involvement. I ensure that the teachers are on board and know in advance that my children will miss school (sometimes a lot). I assure them that my children will check with them in advance about any work they will miss and that I appreciate their support and understanding in helping our children to have enriching experiences outside the classroom. I have never had a teacher NOT support them or give them a hard time. I believe me setting up this expectation at the beginning of the year has been key to this.
I had two interesting talks this week with parents around this topic. One was shocked to find out that I go to all of them. She shared that she didn’t want to waste the teacher’s time talking about her daughter who does well in school and doesn’t seem to have any problems. I had another conversation with a Dad of a boy entering high school. He didn’t seem concerned as his son seemed to be adjusting well.
I shared with both of them my 5 reasons above. I truly do believe that my involvement at these meetings helps my children do better in school. It widens the community that is looking out for them, challenging them and expecting great things from them. My experience has shown that our children and teens WILL RISE to the expectations placed on them.
DO IT - YOU’LL BE GLAD YOU DID.