Editor of parenting website Kiwi Families and former teacher turned parenting guru, Rochelle Gribble discusses how to get the most out of parent-teacher interviews and student-led conferences.
Here are some tips to help you maximise this short window of opportunity to find out what is going on for your child at school, and how to approach it, especially if things are going wrong.
Parents go in to these meeting with their own school ‘baggage’. Try to put it aside. Teaching and learning have changed since you were at school.
Have any questions written down, and say at the beginning of the meeting that you have some things you want to talk about.
The things you probably want to find out about are your child's learning, behaviour, and socialisation. Ask the teacher: How well are they participating? What can they do well? How are they relating to other children? What are the next steps for my child? What other support can we use?
Be an acronym-buster – if you don’t understand the words you’re hearing, ask for them to be explained.
If you don’t get through everything, or other issues occur to you later, follow up with the teacher by e-mail and possibly make another appointment.
If you think there is an issue with the teacher - you don’t rate them, or they and your child don’t get along, talk to the syndicate leader, dean or other ‘next-up’ teacher. If you think there might be a personality clash rather than bad behaviour from the child, ask the teacher for specific examples of issues so you can work out if there is more that needs to be done.
Student-led conferences – where the child attends the meeting - can have good and bad aspects. It can be good for children to hear about ‘next steps' they need to take to improve, but it may not be helpful for them to hear about how badly they are doing. You can ask the child to step out for part of the conversation, or make a time to phone or visit the teacher to talk about the hard stuff at another time. This will also give the teacher time to collect any relevant information.
Teachers are busy. Start by e-mailling to set up a suitable time to follow up.
If there is a big concern, don’t save it up for the parent-teacher meeting. Let the teacher know in advance that you have concerns, and perhaps make a separate time when this can be focused on.