By Erin D’Addio
For many of you out there, it is time for your first parent/teacher conference of the year. Some of you have been going to conferences for a while and not getting the results you want. Here are seven common mistakes that can prevent positive interactions between parents and teachers–that you might not know you’re making–and what to do about it:
Mistake 1. You enter the conference having preconceived ideas about the teacher, the classroom, and your child’s progress.
How you can fix it: Come into the conference with an open mind. If you don’t agree with something the teacher is telling you about your child, remember they are working with your child in an environment you never see them in. A teacher can have between 18-25 other students in a room for 5 hours every day. A behavior that is barely noticeable or only a little annoying to you at home can be a much different beast when there are 20 other little munchkins ready to mimic that same behavior.
Mistake 2. Not sharing your home discipline plans or routines with your child’s teacher.
How you can fix it: If your child is having a behavior concern, share what works for you at home. Ask the teacher what has been working or not working in the classroom. You never know, a strategy that works for you at home may be the key to your child’s success in the classroom. The teacher is not going to make a judgement about you or your behavior plan, rather it might open the door to helpful solutions and discussions.
Mistake 3. Telling the teacher your child is bored.
How you can fix it: A teacher will take offense to this immediately. Your child’s teacher could be your biggest ally in your child’s success. You want to nurture the relationship rather than put the teacher at arms length. Instead, ask if there are websites or resources that you, the parent, could use that would enrich what is being taught in the classroom. Ask about your child’s engagement level during class, and if the teacher has any tips on how to increase it.
Mistake 4. Leaving a positive conference without getting any extra guidance.
How you can fix it: If everything is absolutely perfect with your child, and the teacher doesn’t have much to report–other than they wish every child in the classroom was like your child–ask them for something to work on. Even the very best of us have something we could always improve on.
Mistake 5. Not asking for help.
How you can fix it: If you do have a concern, let the teacher know and ask for their help. If you are having issues at home, your child’s teacher might be able to provide extra insight and offer new solutions that can help. They spend a lot of time with your children and get to see them in ways you might not have a chance to see.
Mistake 6. Blaming the teacher.
How you can fix it: If you make the teacher part of the solution, instead of making it sound like he/she is the problem, you will get better results. This is true for interactions with ANYONE! Phrase concerns properly. You would probably be shocked at the number of parents that storm into classrooms, in front of a class full of students, and confront teachers about one thing or another. It isn’t helpful, and it can be embarrassing for your child. Use conference times to discuss concerns, coming from a place of love and concern for your child rather than anger. If the issue cannot wait, make an appointment to speak with the teacher after/before school, communicate through e-mail, or ask the teacher for a moment to the side of the room.
Mistake 7. Assuming the teacher doesn’t really care about your child.
How you can fix it: Keep in the back of your mind that the person who is sitting there with you, loves your child almost as much as you do and wants to see your child succeed. By the time you meet with the teacher they may have already had 18 other conferences and are on their 13th working hour of that day. Tell them you appreciate all they do and offer your support. This is what a teacher really wants to hear. It’s in those small moments they remember why they became a teacher and you just reminded them of that. Go You!