Parent-teacher conferences provide excellent opportunities for home and school to unite in an effort to enrich a child's social and academic growth. Teachers bring expertise in content areas, curriculum planning, classroom organization, and student motivation. Parents have unique insights about their child's needs, aspirations, interests, and aptitudes. The challenge lies in discovering the best way for you and your child's teachers to communicate and implement appropriate enrichment experiences.
Before the Conference, Educate Yourself
At the Conference, Use Positive Communication Techniques
Arrive promptly at the scheduled conference time. Enter confidently and shake hands with the teacher, giving your name and your child's name. Both parents should attend when possible. Single parents might ask a relative, friend, or someone who shares responsibility for the child to accompany them. When possible, arrange to sit in an "adult" chair at eye level with the teacher. Listen actively. Be calm, diplomatic, and tactful. With your body language show that you are interested in what the teacher has to say. If you feel you are leaving conferences with only surface information such as test scores and attendance records, ask some questions that will delve deeper into the child's school life.
Find ways to show appreciation for the positives that happen
in the classroom. Avoid absolutes (always, never) and words
describing your child that might have a negative impact on the
teacher (bored, brilliant). Instead, use language such as, "My
child seems to learn differently" or "needs less time and fewer
repetitions to master the content." Express a willingness to help
solve problems. The emphasis is on what you and the teacher can
do together, not just what the teacher can do.
If you do not understand or agree with the teacher's suggestions,
reflect on the possibilities and follow up later. After giving
some thought to an idea or trying it at home, you may find it
has value. On other occasions, you might conclude that you and
the teacher need to look for a better way to proceed.
When making curriculum suggestions, be specific about a
strategy that fits your child's needs and has been recognized in
quality gifted programs. Show how it reflects the district's goals
or policies and how you could help at home to make it successful.
It is important that these suggestions be made first with the
child's classroom teacher. Only when you have been unable to
reach a mutual decision after several honest professional attempts
should you take the issue to the principal or gifted education
Finally, teachers appreciate follow-up notes thanking them
for their time and interest in your child. School communication
is a vital and on-going process. The more insights you and the
teacher share about each other and your child, the greater the
chances for educational growth.
Arlene DeVries is currently chair of the Parent/Community Division of NAGC, co-chair of its Parent Institute Task Force, and a member of NAGC's Advocacy and Parent Magazine task forces. She is vice president and local parent chapter liaison for the Iowa Talented and Gifted Association and has been the Community Resource Consultant for the Des Moines Schools gifted/talented program for the past 15 years.
Copyright material from Parenting for High Potential a publication of the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC). Reprinted with permission. Further reprints require permission of NAGC.
This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.
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