October means fall leaves, jack-o-lanterns, and if you have a student in Whitefish Bay schools, parent-teacher conferences. Whether you consider conferences a trick or a treat, conferences can benefit both parents and teachers if parents maximize the few minutes they spend face-to-face with their child’s teachers.
AFE members have asked our board for information on best ways to prepare for parent-teacher conferences.
According to Mike O’Connor, principal at the middle school, parents of middle schoolers should consider asking some of the following questions:
- What are the most important standards you’ve covered so far? How is my child doing in meeting those standards?
- When do you see my child the most engaged with school? When does he/she tune out?
- How does my child treat other kids? How is he/she treated by others?
- What’s one goal you have for my child over the next month?
- Tell me about a time my child has struggled in your class. How did he/she overcome it?
- What support can we provide at home that will ensure my child’s (continued) success?
O’Connor says, “Questions like these may give you a clearer picture of your child’s scholarship, character, and social interactions than a letter grade ever would. This will be especially true if you bring your child with you to conferences!” Middle and high schoolers may attend their conferences, though most elementary conferences are parent-teacher only.
To get the most out of parent-teacher conferences, parents should be prepared to talk about their child, not simply hear what the teacher has to say.
According to Nancy Flanagan in her Education Week article, Seven Ideas for Meaningful Parent-Teacher Conferences, “conferences are an opportunity for two-way communication. They’re not merely a stage for teachers to give parents information on classroom performance, although many teachers do just that. Conferences are also a place for parents to tell teachers things about their child: How he likes to learn. What she says about the class at home. How he enjoys spending free time. What she says about other students in the class. After a good conference, both the parent and teacher know more about how things could be better.” For the full Education Week article, read more here.
Remember, conferences are just as much an opportunity for parents to communicate about their children, as it is to hear a status report from a teacher. Make the most of the time you have during conferences – even if it is only five minutes.
For the older grades, the majority of the evening is spent waiting in line. Consider this an opportunity to get to know the parents of your child’s peers – they may provide new insight or new questions about your child’s experience at school.