Parent Teacher Conference

The new school year is upon us and many of you will soon be attending a parent/teacher conference for your special needs child. While my days of attending these events are over (Melissa has completed her education) my memories of those meetings remain quite vivid. Let me share some thoughts that have stuck with me over the years.

In years past, your child might bring home a note in their lunchbox announcing teacher/parent meetings. But today that communication is more likely accomplished by email or through the school’s electronic newsletter. I have to admit that I always had mixed emotions about these meetings. Yes it was great to see Melissa’s school work and to hear how well she is doing in various subjects–but then there was always the disappointment to see how much she was delayed.

While I’ve always been somewhat of a workaholic, I made every possible effort to attend the meeting. If that meant leaving work early, so be it. If that meant postponing a business trip, so be it. This was important to me because I take my role as a father very seriously.

Here’s a few of my personal “rules” that I’ve always tried to follow in these meetings.

  • Quick … find a seat! One of my big fears was that I would have to sit in those “little chairs.” To know me is to know that I’m a big man and trying to squeeze even a single “cheek” into those tiny plastic seats requires the flexibility of a contortionist. My solution was to make a bee-line for the biggest chair I could find (even if it was the teacher’s chair).
  •  Dress comfortably but respectfully. If you choose formal attire, you can put the teacher on edge. If your dress is too casual, you can send the message that the meeting is not important to you or intruding on your leisure time, or worse – that you don’t respect the teacher.
  • Offer insights that can help the teacher better work with your child. If there is something that frightens your child, then let the teacher know to avoid it (or work on overcoming it). If you have noticed your child learning using a specific technique, mention it.
  • Report and praise progress. This not only lets the teacher know they are achieving positive results, but it can help strengthen the important relationship you have with them.
  • Respect your allotted time. There will be parents waiting their turn and if the meeting is going well, it is easy to sit and “chat” without thinking about the impact to others.
  • Let the teacher lead the discussion. This is often a challenge for me, but if I would start to try and take over, Kathy would just give me “the look” and I instantly knew I had strayed over the line.
  • Take notes while listening. Inevitably a question or concern will come to mind while the teacher is reviewing your child’s performance. To prevent forgetting, jot it down. Not only will you have a list to guide the discussion, but the teacher will be more than impressed with your attentiveness.
  • Some of the key items that I always tried to make sure we covered included classroom skills, peer social interaction, optimum learning techniques, and most importantly key areas of weakness that we could work on at home.
  • Save the argument for when you get home. It was not unusual for Kathy and I to have a difference of opinion on a particular topic. Over the years we learned to present a unified front and have our lively “discussions” when we got home.

I hope that these thoughts help you to get the most out of your teacher/parent conference.



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