What are three most common mistakes parents make during parent-teacher conferences?
Expert: Suzanne Tingley, former teacher, principal, superintendant, author of How To Handle Difficult Parents: A Teacher’s Survival Guide, and named a “Woman of Distinction” by the New York State Senate in 2007.
1. Go in with a plan, and ask questions that relate to your child’s overall well-being, not just their academic progress.
Parents sometimes don’t think about what they want to learn from the parent – teacher conference their school schedules. They go in as passive receptors of the information the teacher wants to give them. But, it’s a good idea if they think about the conference beforehand, because most parents really want to know not only how their child is doing academically, but also how their child is doing socially. They also want to know “Does my kid have any friends?” And sometimes if they don’t ask that, they’re not going to get it. If they don’t think about questions like that ahead of time, they’re not going to get the information they want.
2. If there’s a problem, ask the teacher about his or her game plan.
Sometimes when parents hear their child is having a problem, they don’t ask: “What’s the plan to correct it?” They let the teacher say “Well, he’s behind in reading.” Or “He’s got this or that problem.” And the parents don’t respond, “Well what’s the plan to correct that?” Along with that, they need to say “And what can we do to help?” What’s the game plan here to work together to help the child? Because just getting the information that there is a problem isn’t enough; and the child’s issue is not your responsibility alone, it’s something to work on constructively with the teacher.
3. Don’t play mediator.
If the child has had a conflict with the teacher, the worst thing a parent can say, the thing that really really annoys teachers, is “And now we’d like to hear your side.” When they put it that way it sounds as if the parents are stepping in to be the moderators between two equals. A five-year-old and a forty-five-year-old? As though the teacher and the child are siblings, the parents pronounce: “Sam says ‘blah, blah, blah’ and now we’d like to hear your side of the story.” They should say something like “Our child is saying this at home, what do you think is going on?” Or “What’s your take on this?” You should appeal to the teacher in an adult-to-adult manner, rather than play mediator as though they’re brother and sister.
- As told to Emily Frost