By Onnie Shekerjian
Reproduced with permission from Internet Education Exchange
Many years later, sitting on another miniature chair, I found myself conferencing with my third childs kindergarten teacher. But this time, I was now a "veteran parent" and came confident and well prepared to make the most of the precious time I had during the conference. Here are some tips to give you the same confidence and help make your conference successful no matter what size chair you find yourself sitting in!
Before the conference, ask your student about the class and teacher. Learn what they like best and least about the class. Even very young learners can provide some interesting input.
Express your observations, concerns, compliments and questions on paper. This can serve as the basis of your input at the conference. Bring two copies to the meeting: one for you and one to leave with the teacher.
If the spring conference occurs before next years classes are set in stone, use this opportunity to give your recommendations as to which teacher or class would best meet your students needs.
This provides good support for you as well as an additional set of ears. Take notes. Consider having your companion record the meeting for you. Let the teacher know who will be accompanying you to the conference.
Assume that the teacher wants your student to succeed. Remember a conference should be a two-way conversation. View the teachers input as an opportunity to learn more information about your student's needs. Share your input, using the document you have prepared.
If you have concerns that need addressing, don't leave the conference with out asking:
Request a meeting, if a one-on-one conference opportunity isn’t offered. Some districts don’t offer individual conferences in middle school or high school, offering instead, a student-led "portfolio night". You can still have an individual conference by merely requesting "a meeting" to discuss your student’s progress. A good educator will welcome the opportunity to visit with an interested parent.
Expectations for the school year should be the topic of this conference. Additionally, share helpful information about your student. If a before-school, face-to-face meeting isn’t possible, send a letter of introduction to the teacher, expressing your thoughts and requesting an opportunity to visit over the phone.
Document your observations, questions and concerns about your student and the school, as well as your interactions with school personnel. This comes in handy as a memory jogger when preparing for a conference or as important documentation if a problem arises. Always record the date, time, issue, thoughts, conversations, names of people involved, etc. Save all correspondence from the school (e.g., report cards, letters) in this file.
While teachers change in your student's life annually, you remain as the only constant from kindergarten through college. It is your role to oversee your child's education to ensure his/her needs are met. You can't afford to be a passive participant.