With Parent-Teacher interviews approaching, are you filled with anxiety and nerves? Does sitting in that small kindergarten chair, across from your child’s teacher, take you back to the days when you got in trouble at school?
Whatever your feelings or childhood experiences, you must maximize the fraction of time you’ll get to chat about your child’s progress at school.
Remember: a strong, communicative, and positive teacher-parent-student relationship is essential for student success. As the parent, you can make a huge difference in your child’s success, by doing your part in this three-way relationship. Build a respectful and ongoing rapport, become an ally with the teacher, and you will show your child you’re on board, and engaged, with all academic strategies, expectations, and activities.
Here’s a plan to get ready for your 15 minutes with teacher.
BEFORE THE INTERVIEW:
1) Review your child’s report card. Note your concerns on a piece of paper or index card, so that you don’t forget something important during the interview.
2) Talk to your child. Find out his perspective about his progress so far. Learn more about some of the comments on the report, and get his opinion about what’s happening at school. Find out his goals for the next term. What can he improve on, and what is he proud of?
3) Prepare questions, if you have any. Here are a few examples:
DURING THE INTERVIEW
4) Clarify the teacher’s expectations. Make sure you grasp where she is coming from.
5) Stay calm. Be honest. Don’t get defensive, no matter how hard it is to hear that your child isn’t always perfect, or meeting her potential. Remember that her teacher is the OTHER adult spending dozens of hours per week with your child. Your child’s teacher really knows her, in a different light than you.
6) Share information about your side of the situation. Be factual. Describe observations of your child’s attitudes and habits regarding school. For example, you can say something like, “At home, I’m hearing my child complain about the huge workload and fast pace in math,” instead of, “You give too much homework, and my child hates the way you teach math.” Or, “I see my child dread going to school for the first time,” instead of, “My kid is unhappy in your class.”
7) Stay on track. You only have 15 minutes. Make them count.
8) Focus on solutions. Whatever the problems may be, there are strategies that you can plan with the teacher to solve problems.
9) End on a positive note. Remember, be a positive ally in the parent-teacher-student relationship. This “triangle” is key to your child’s success at school.
AFTER THE INTERVIEW
10) Talk to your child about the interview, and set new goals together.
11) Help at home to reinforce the skills taught at school. For example, post a family calendar in the kitchen and put important deadlines and test dates on it; create a quiet work space for your child; or hire a tutor in a specific subject.
12) Keep communication lines open with the teacher, and your child, about activities and expectations at school.
When I was a classroom teacher, I used the “hamburger approach” in my interviews. I’d start each interview with positive comments and reflection, and end with the positive (the “bun” parts of the hamburger). I’d save the middle of the interview for the “meat” — the more serious or awkward topics, and strategies for improvements.
As parents, keep the “hamburger approach” in mind for your communication too! Start with the positive, and then get to the serious material. Always end on a positive note.
Best of luck with Parent-Teacher interviews this month. Enjoy this opportunity to discover something new about your child!