You are sitting in the hallway, looking at your phone, reading or playing a game. The chair you are sitting in is way too small and you are nervous about this meeting. You look up and see kids and other parents with pinched faces lined up along the wall. What should you ask/say to this all important person in your child’s life? What if she/he doesn’t like you? What if you don’t like him/her? What if this teacher doesn’t like your child? It feels like the worst kind of test, the ones that includes everything—social skills, parenting skills, intelligence, and that unquantifiable ‘it’ factor.
Parent-Teacher Conference or Torture?
1. Find something encouraging to say. Teachers are just as nervous to talk with you about your child and are concerned that this interaction go just right. They would not be teaching if they didn’t like children and want them to succeed. Maybe they just had to tell another parent their child has a learning disability or talk about behavioral issues. They will appreciate you noticing the extra effort they have given you, your child, and their class.
2. Write down any questions/concerns and practice how you want to say them before you get there. The stress of the situation, the time pressure, and the importance of talking about big issues all combine to make us forget the ‘most’ important thing: our child. Practicing how to say it just helps you to give the right feel to your question. Being nervous makes all of us sound more aggressive and practice does make perfect.
3. Ask about your child’s social interactions. This person has a perspective on your child you will never have. They are invested and spend time with your child on a day to day basis and see how they interact with their peers under stress. They can give you great understanding of who your child is among their peers.
4. Ask about their schedule. There may be a time during the day it is easier for your child to be out—usually around lunch. Knowing this crucial piece of information lets you schedule doctor, orthodontist, physical therapy, and play therapy around their schedule in a way that won’t disrupt the class or your child’s day. While your child may not have this need now, there is no way to know if there will be a day that they need to come out. Talking to the teacher now will help you to plan for the future.