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Parent-Teacher Conferences

Updated 16 Oct 2006

Parent-Teacher Conference Checklist

Pre-Conference

1. Ask the teacher for a 30 minute appointment and schedule the P-T conference when both parents can attend. Donít take less than 30 minutes!

2. Interview your child over several days.

bulletWhat do you like best about school? Academically? Socially? Staff?
bulletWhat do you like least about school? Academically? Socially? Staff?
bulletWho are your best friends? What kinds of things do you do together?
bulletDo you like where you are sitting?
bulletIs the classroom too noisy?
bulletDo the computers, pencil sharpeners, bathrooms, soap and towel dispensers work ok?
bulletHow are things in the cafeteria?
bulletHow do you like gym? Art? Music?
bulletHow do you feel about your homework assignments?
bulletIs homework always completed? On time?
bulletIs there anything youíd like me to talk to your teacher about?
bulletWhat are three things you think you can improve on during the year?

3. Review your childís performance.

bulletReview IOWA scores and other standardized test scores.
bulletReview homework and test scores from this yearís work. Are they up to expectations?
bulletReview assignment notebooks. What problems do you see, if any?
bulletIs the child able to integrate his/her passions/interests into the schoolwork?
bulletWhere does your child excel? What subjects give your child difficulty?

4. Review the quality of tests, homework assignments, grading, and textbooks.

bulletIs homework challenging and relevant?
bulletIs the child being permitted to work to the level of his/her ability in reading and math?
bulletAre homework and tests well written and accurately graded?
bulletDoes the teacher include suggestions for improvement on tests and homework?
bulletAre assignments clear? Are test questions well formed?
bulletReview the books your child uses. Are they adequate?
bulletAmong these, do you see any issues you should raise with the teacher, either at conference or at another time?

5. Prepare

bulletA list of two things you like about what the teacher is doing.
bulletA list of two things you like about what your child is doing.
bulletA list of questions youíd like to discuss.

During the Conference

1. Listen for consistencies and inconsistencies between what you hear from the teacher and what your pre-conference research revealed. Are there differences in perceptions or expectations that need to be addressed?

If you donít understand something, even jargon, ask about it!!

2. What should the teacher know about your child?

Socially. Medically. Academically. Learning problems. Childís own concerns.

Are there family problems that need to be discussed?

3. What specific questions do you have about:

Grades? Behavior? Assignments and homework? Special projects? Extracurricular activities? Computers? Difficulty of work?

4. What specific concerns does the teacher have about:

Grades? Behavior? Effort? Social skills?

What is the plan for dealing with these concerns? Does the plan make sense?

What special goals does the teacher have for your child?

5. Questions about academics.

What will our child learn this year in key subjects like math, science, history, and English?

What is our child doing well in? What gives our child difficulty? Ask for specific examples.

What are the strengths of the curriculum? What weaknesses in the curriculum should we try to compensate for at home? (Donít accept "None," as an answer.)

6. What can we do to help our child do better in school? (Donít accept general or vague answers.)

bulletWhat can we do to stay more involved in our child's academic progress?
bulletWhat can we do at home to complement what is happening in the classroom?
bulletHow can we know on a daily basis what homework has been assigned?
bulletWhat books or software do you recommend?
bulletHow can we better coordinate our childís outside reading and activities to reinforce schoolwork?
bulletShould we focus on our childís strengths or work to improve his/her weaknesses?
bulletWhat resources does the school or its library have to help us with the issues weíve identified?

7. If your child is having difficulty, ask:

bulletIs remedial work advised?
bulletDoes the child need help from parents? If so, how do we help?
bulletDoes the child need special guidance?
bulletDo study habits need improving? Which ones and how?

8. What actions do (1) you and (2) the teacher agree to take to address the issues discussed?

Finally, donít shortchange art, music and gym. These programs can enhance core subject learning and invigorate the mind for heightened learning. Problems in any one of these can detract from learning in the classroom. For example, a lack of discipline in music can carry over to the classroom and steal time from course work. Ignore them at your peril.

After the conference

Follow through and follow up.

 

 Parent-teacher conferences assume greater importance

By RANDI WEINER 
COPYRIGHT 1999 The Journal News. All rights reserved. 
Publication date: 11/2/1999 

It's time again for the parent-teacher conference, the often-awkward, 20-minute November sit-down that many moms and dads -- and some teachers -- would just as soon skip.

But new high-stakes tests and tougher graduation requirements make the meetings more important than ever, educators say. Conferences are an ideal time to catch and correct academic problems early in the year and to 
tackle behavior issues that could hamper classroom performance.

"These conferences present a perfect opportunity for parents to ask questions about how their child is measuring up," said Thomas Y. Hobart Jr., president of New York State United Teachers. "By attending these conferences, parents signal to their sons and daughters that school is important, and they are willing to work as partners with teachers to help their children learn."

Parents' attendance at conferences drops dramatically as children move from the early grades into middle school and on to high school, educators complain. But studies show that parental participation is an important influence in a child's success throughout school. And a successful parent-teacher conference hinges on both sides preparing ahead of time.

Teachers say parents should come with questions about their child's overall performance and the teacher's policy on homework and assignments. They should tell the teacher about the child's special skills, study habits and any changes at home that might affect the child's work.

Parents should also ask how their child gets along with classmates, Hobart said, because students with social problems seem to be at greater risk of academic problems.

"It's the one formal conversation that you have with parents" early in the school year, said Patrick Peltier, a curriculum associate with East Ramapo schools and a former teacher. "It's a time to talk to parents about your program, explain in better detail and go in-depth with them. It's extremely important."

Because conferences are so important, some tri-county districts offer special programs to prepare teachers or provide faculty mentors to ease new teachers' conference jitters. Nearly two dozen educators turned out for a recent workshop at the Putnam-Northern Westchester Board of Cooperative Educational Services in search of tips to make conferences more productive for everyone.

"Many teachers felt they needed some extra support," said Adrienne Forbes, of the Hudson River CHHOP Teacher Center.

The teachers were told to be sensitive to parents' perceptions. What teachers consider an expression of concern, a parent may see as nosy or condescending. Rewarding a pupil may be seen as a bribe and offering suggestions to parents may be viewed as telling them how to do their job, the teachers were warned. Workshop participants were also reminded that 
different families and cultures cherish different beliefs and not everyone will agree on what's best for a child.

Gary Bauerlein of Mahopac said he sometimes has disagreed with the way his children were taught. His solution: meet with the teacher, ask questions, do research and calmly discuss -- not argue.

"Parents have to be educated in modern teaching methods and philosophies," said Bauerlein, whose youngest daughter is a senior at Mahopac High School. "I know things are different from when I grew up." 

Those differences are profound for today's high school student, and meeting with teachers and guidance counselors can help parents sort 
through the tangle of new graduation requirements and plan for college or 
careers.

Parents should ask about the Regents' exams being phased in over the next several years and find out what specifically their child needs to do to graduate. Some schools have special requirements such as community service or internships in addition to the academic course work.

The conference is also a time to discuss a child's college or job plans 
and get information about such topics as school-to-work programs and financial aid.

"There's nothing more important for a parent to be doing than to pay 
attention to a child's education, no matter the age of the child," said 
Lynne Bernstein, a Byram Hills school board member, whose 9- and 11-year-old children attend The Hackley School, a private school in 
Tarrytown. "There's no point in a child's education when a parent becomes less important" and stops needing to know what is going on in school.

Parents of elementary school students, especially fourth-graders, will want to find out how well their child is doing with the reading, writing and listening skills that are tested by the state English Language Arts exam. Teachers will be able to offer ideas for helping a struggling child at home.

The best conferences are those where both parent and teacher keep in mind that the child and his or her education is the focus, said Michelle Grant, principal at George W. Miller Elementary School in Nanuet.

"We want (students) to establish good work habits and a positive attitude toward school," Grant said. "We're really laying the foundation, not just for now, but for the child's future. We have to work as a team."

Sue Frisch, who has taught at Miller for 10 years, telephones her second-graders' parents before conferences to find out their concerns. The personal touch, she said, helps build trust. And trust is the most important ingredient in the conference mix.

"The most successful conferences are when parents have talked about what they want to get out of it and have a list they can check off at the end," she said.

 

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