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Monday, October 6, 2014

Make Your Conference Count

Two Sides of the Same Coin: Preparing for Parent-Teacher Conferences

Parent teacher conferences happen about twice each school year. Although the focus of each conference should be the child/student, parents and teachers often come to the conferences with differing agendas. Parents want to know about how their child is performing in school, while teachers want to report what kind of student the child is. And although the conference is to be about one person, differing perspectives and agendas can make or break the meeting. In order for the conference to be successful, the adults must focus on the child.

I have attended many parent-teacher conferences and have been on both sides of the discussion. My teacher preparation suggested that I sit on the same side of the table as the parent(s) in order to develop a friendly rapport with the parents of my students. I was also encouraged to always use parent-friendly language (no teacher jargon that confuses parents) that would help parents better understand how they can support their children. And lastly, I was taught to always listen attentively to what parents had to say and to be open to their suggestions.

As a parent, I learned that it was always important for me to prepare ahead of time for parent-teacher conferences with pencil and paper. Knowing each child as I do, I had to prepare both general and specific questions about their classroom performances. For some of my children, I had to ask questions about academics and behavior, while for others, I only had to ask about the academic side or what they were learning. There were, however, three questions that I asked every teacher about each child. These were questions that I thought every teacher should be able to answer about my child and their education process.

My first question was, “What does my child do well?” I expected to hear at least one thing that my child could do well. When teachers were slow in forthcoming with praise for a child, I asked for the praise. The teacher’s response always gave me a glimpse into how my child was viewed in the classroom. My second question was, “What can I do to best support my child at home?” I wanted to know what types of activities my child needed to experience outside of school that would enhance her/his classroom learning, and I needed the teacher’s input on those activities. Finally, my last question was, “What can I do to support your efforts in the classroom?” These questions speak to the essence of parent-teacher interactions that are focused on the success of the child. Whenever parents and teachers meet, it should truly be a meeting of the minds about what is in the best interest of the child’s learning.

In this season of parent-teacher conferences, prepare your questions. Write them on a notepad, and take notes during the conference. Each child reaps huge benefits when the adults can address both side of the same coin.

Veda Pendleton McClain is a mother, grandmother, author, and educator. She recently released her second book on parenting titled, Your Presence Is Requested. It is available through or at .


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