Kids and teens do better in school when parents get involved. Attending parent–teacher conferences is one way to be involved and help your child succeed.
A parent–teacher conference is a great opportunity to:
- discuss your child's progress
- share your child's strengths and needs
- work with the teacher to help your child do well in school
Parent–teacher conferences usually happen once or twice a year. They're brief meetings, lasting about 10–30 minutes. Most schools set aside specific dates and times for conferences, but if they conflict with your schedule, try to find another time that works. If you can't make it into school, ask your child's teacher if you can schedule a phone conference instead. If necessary, divorced parents can ask a teacher to schedule separate conferences.
Other school staff who support your child's learning may attend the conference too. An administrator might go at the request of the parent or teacher if an issue can't be resolved by the teacher alone. In some cases, the student may attend the conference, but parents also can ask for private time with the teacher.
Conferences focus on learning, although behavior and social concerns might be discussed. The teacher will review your child's progress, including strengths and areas in need of improvement. You also might talk about standardized test results, individualized education plans (IEP), and 504 education plans.
Before the Conference
Some parents track their child's schoolwork and progress and already know what they need to talk about with the teacher. Some may have been talking with teachers at IEP or 504 plan meetings. For those parents, the conference is a chance to update each other on how the student is doing. Other parents may be talking with the teacher for the first time.
Whether it's your first conversation with the teacher or one of many, it can help if you go prepared. Know ahead of time how your child is doing and what you want to discuss. Even if you know all is well, attending conferences shows your kids that you're interested in how they do in school.
These tips can help you make the most of those important meetings:
- In the weeks ahead of a conference, check in with kids about how they're doing on homework and in each subject. Review homework and any recent projects, tests, quizzes, report cards, or progress reports.
- Ask if there are questions or issues your child wants you to discuss with the teacher.
- Plan to bring something to take notes with (paper and pen or a laptop or other device).
- Share a few things about your child with the teacher — interests, strengths, favorite subjects — to help the teacher know your child better.
- Write down questions or topics you'd like the conference to cover. Depending on
your situation, you may want to ask about:
- whether your child is meeting grade-level expectations (not how he or she compares with peers)
- educational testing if your child is struggling
- what the teacher sees as your child's strengths and challenges and how these are being addressed
- other services to help your child grow as a learner
- making a plan to check in regularly if there are any learning or behavior problems
- your child's work habits, independently and in large- and small-group instruction
- how your child gets along with other students in class and during lunch, recess, phys-ed, and other classes
If any school-related problems arise, contact the teacher or other school staff by phone or email. You don't have to wait until parent–teacher conference time to handle your concerns.
During the Conference
Teachers usually meet with parents in back-to-back meetings, so try to be on time for your meeting.
At the meeting, remember to:
- Get contact information for the teacher and ask what the best form of contact is (letter, email, phone call, message via student-teacher-parent web portal, etc.)
- Take notes.
- Ask to see classwork and homework samples, tests and quizzes, and standardized testing.
- Ask your questions and share information about your child.
- Make the most of this time by focusing on your child's learning.
- Summarize the main points of the discussion to confirm details and any next steps.
After the Conference
To follow up after the meeting:
- Contact the teacher with any questions you didn't have time to ask.
- Review your notes about what you and the teacher will do to support learning, then make detailed plans about how and when you will help your child.
- If you still have concerns or do not agree with an evaluation, put your thoughts in writing and schedule a meeting with the teacher or an administrator as soon as mutually convenient.
- Check in with the teacher to follow up on your child's progress.
- Review what was discussed at the conference with your child, including any special learning plans, and share the positive comments the teacher made.
- Consider sending a thank-you note to the teacher and any other educator who took the time to attend the conference.
Keep in mind that you and your child's teacher have the same goal: To help your child succeed in school.
- 10 Ways to Help Your Child Succeed in Elementary School
- 10 Ways to Help Your Child Succeed in Middle School
- 10 Ways to Help Your Teen Succeed in High School
- Helping With Homework
- Helping Your Child Adjust to Preschool
- Talking to Your Child's Preschool Teacher
- Helping Your Teen With Homework
- Back to School
- Getting Involved at Your Child's School
- Helping Your Gradeschooler With Homework
- Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)
- 504 Education Plans
- Balancing Academics and Serious Illness
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995- KidsHealth® All rights reserved.
Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.