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What do teachers really tell parents at parent/teacher conferences?
I encourage students to come with their parents to the conferences, so it’s all out in the open.
I have a list of things to talk about that I use for every single student. I put the list in the board for all to see. It’s usually something like:
- Executive Functioning Skills
- Social Skills
- High School Placement
Then I just talk about each one of those categories with the specific student in mind. There’s always at least one thing to talk about in every category.
You’ll notice that “grades” is not something I talk about, because the parents already know what their child’s grades are. It’s all online. We talk about the reasons for the grades, but not the grades themselves.
One of the keys to a successful conference is stating negative things in a positive light, and providing a solution along with the criticism. Like this:
Bad: “Your kid talks too much in class.”
Good: “Your kid is very sociable, and we need to work on channeling that energy into her schoolwork. There’s a time to be social, and a time to listen. She gets confused about what time it is sometimes.”
Here comes a potentially unpopular opinion: I think that teachers who are parents themselves have an easier time connecting with other parents. My students’ parents know that I am also a father, and I’m quick to relate parenting stories with them during the conference. Parents often want to know that teachers see the positive in their children, and understand the struggles that parents face.
So while I might think, “Your child’s lack of self-control is because you give into everything they want,” I would never say that. I’d say, “Your son has a lot of impulse control issues, which is common for kids his age. He should grow out of it, but it will happen a lot quicker if we work together and both correct him as soon as he loses control at school and at home.”
There’s a lot of tactful diplomacy involved in teaching.
I always like to end my conferences by asking the students who is dating whom in the class. It lightens the mood a lot, and it lets me know which students I need to keep my eyes on, in case they try to leave the room at the same time.
Jamie Barth is a father, teacher, husband, and idealist. Read more from Quora below: