As Sola skipped into the house that evening the most important thing on his mind was giving mummy the piece of paper, which his teacher put in his homework pouch. He knew it must be something important; his teacher had reminded him several times not to forget to hand it over personally. He was really keen to prove to Miss Chioma that he could carry out assigned tasks responsibly.
Mrs Ajayi couldn’t help but smile at the infectious enthusiasm her son was oozing with as he handed over the stapled piece of paper he had brought home from school. As she opened it and saw the invitation for the upcoming parent-teacher conference, she heaved a sigh of frustration, as she knew she had to squeeze out time from her already cluttered schedule for it. She knew the importance of a smooth home-school connection. She just wished she had a checklist or guide on how to maximise the benefits of the meeting and spend as little time as possible.
It is an established fact that a well-rounded education involves the active participation of the home and school. Parents have as much, if not more, influence on the learning progression and development of their children as the teachers. That being said, there is a need for a cohesive parent-teacher relationship to foster better learning environment for children. Parent-teacher conferences stand out as one of the important avenues through which this relationship can be fostered, nurtured and leveraged upon.
In this post, I will recommend some easy strategies that parents should be aware of, in order to make the most of these conferences with their children’s teachers.
A parent-teacher conference is a great opportunity (for teachers) to:
– Share academic progress and growth based on classroom observations, testing data, assessments, portfolios and assignments.
– Learn from parents or guardians so they can be better informed about students’ strengths, needs and behaviors.
– Discuss enrichment or intervention strategies to support students’ learning.
– Discuss issues that may be interfering with students’ learning and growth.
While these points deal directly with what the conferences mean for teachers, one can infer that there is a world of good for interested parents in these meetings also. So how do you, as a parent, get the most benefit from the fifteen to twenty minutes squeezed out of a busy schedule to sit with your child’s teacher?
Here are a couple of tips that can help you prepare for, participate in and make use of information gathered at these conferences.
This is the basis of a healthy parent-teacher relationship as it eliminates a lot of misconceptions and issues that might crop up in the course of interaction with your child’s teacher. A well informed parent is aware of the type of curriculum used in the a child’s school, the learning thrust or philosophy of the school, the learning threshold or parameters for judging success in a child’s academic environment etc. all these information are easily accessible via the school’s website or upon request from the school’s front-desk.
Make it a point of duty to keep abreast of all these and other salient details about your child’s learning environment as it creates a common ground for discussion between you and teacher at the conference. It also eliminates the need for a lot of explanation of basic concepts by the teacher and cuts down the time wasted at the conference.
Discuss extensively with your child about their learning and socializing before the conference
This is a very important, but often overlooked point, to consider before going for a parent-teacher conference. Most parents do not appreciate the benefits of a healthy discussion with kids about their own lives.
It is a typical African/Nigerian mindset to assume that a parent knows what’s best for a child. However, research has shown that actively considering children’s opinions or perspectives when making decisions that affects their lives fosters a better parent-child relationship and in most cases, often turns out right for all parties.
A six-year old primary one pupil is old enough to tell you about the subjects he likes and those he finds problematic in school. He can also give a detailed account of the friends he plays with in school and those he doesn’t like due to incidents that have happened or his perception of them. All these information are crucial to an informed parent-teacher conference as it gives the parent an opportunity to address issues the child might not be confident enough or capable of raising with the teacher.
CAVEAT: it is important that one applies a degree of ‘adult sense’ in sifting what and what not to consider important or actionable from the deluge of information provided by children. Nothing will be gained from a thoughtless reaction to every detail gotten from such a discussion.
Approach the conference with a problem-solving, non-confrontational growth mindset
This is one point that cannot be overemphasised, as a lot of parents see these conferences as avenues to go and ‘fight’ a teacher they perceive as incompetent or unduly harsh on their child.
This is wrong and should be avoided at all costs. Rather, parents should approach these conferences with the aim of finding solutions to identified issues affecting either the academic or behavioral development of their child. The urge to be aggressive and confrontational should be subdued as much as possible as it will only engender a defensive stance in the teacher. A growth mindset philosophy should be applied at these meetings with a focus on ‘how can my child become better’ rather than a desire to blame or fight anyone who doesn’t agree with one’s opinions.
Be open to comments (negative or positive) about your child
This is an extension of the aforementioned point on having a growth mindset. Here, parents should be ready and willing to receive comments and opinions about their child that may not be in tandem with their own views. Remember that a teacher is a trained professional who spends a huge amount of time with your child, hence, his/her opinion about learning ability, behavior and development of your child should not be hastily discarded or disregarded. However, be ready to draw the line at amateur or mediocre psychoanalysis or diagnosis that puts your child in a box or predefined bracket. Comments like “your child is dull and cannot do well in this class” should not be tolerated as it projects a defeatist mentality.
In conclusion, parent-teacher conferences should be seen as avenues to foster a healthy partnership between the school and the home in the business of giving children the best environment to thrive, learn and develop.
Photo Credit: Monkey Business Images | Dreamstime