How to make parent-teacher conferences worthwhile and productive
DeVries, A.
Parenting for High Potential
National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC)
December 1996

Parent-teacher conferences provide excellent opportunities for home and school to unite in an effort to enrich a child's social and academic growth. This article by Arlene DeVries offers tips for parents on how to handle parent-teacher conferences. She offers a list of things to consider and ask during the conference.

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

  1. Know School Policies
  2. Know State and Local Guidelines for Gifted Programs
  3. Know Your Child

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.

For example:

  1. Does our child seem happy in school? What are his or her special interests and strengths?
  2. How does our child interact with others (age-level peers, older children, younger children, adults)? Is he or she perceived as a "know-it-all" and made fun of, or do others seek him or her out?
  3. Does the academic work seem challenging, or is it done with little effort?
  4. Are provisions made for students to learn at their own pace? Are assignments altered to accommodate abilities and interests?
  5. If our child participates in special gifted/talented experiences, is he or she expected to make up regular classroom work?
  6. How does our child feel about trying new things or making mistakes?
  7. Are there opportunities for critical and creative thinking and for problem solving? How does our child respond?
  8. In what ways does our child show the ability to work independently, accept leadership roles, assume responsibility, and exhibit intellectual curiosity?
  9. What can we do to help our child develop his or her talents?
  10. Are there appropriate after-school or summer enrichment opportunities available for our child?

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 supervisor.

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.

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Comments

Contributed by: Other on 8/10/2005
This article provides easy-to-follow info! Also includes great questions to ask.

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