Educators regularly schedule parent-teacher conferences to discuss with parents their child’s academic progress and struggles as well as behavior and social-emotional development. For families of children with exceptional needs, the interactions between home and school are typically greater than for general education students. But what happens when a parent, rather than the teacher, requests a meeting?
Some parents may feel reluctant to inconvenience the teacher or hesitant because they may not know what to say or how to get their points across in a non-confrontational way.
However, if you have any concerns about your child, you can and should initiate a parent-teacher conference. The suggestions below will provide you with guidance to make it pleasant and effective for both parties.
Start with the positives.
At the beginning of the conference, start with positive comments. Tell the teacher what you like about the school, the classroom, or their teaching style. Share what your child has said about their favorite part of the day or a recent lesson or activity they enjoyed. Thank the teacher for taking the time to meet with you. Launching the conservation on topics such as these will put everyone at ease.
- The atmosphere of the school is friendly and welcoming.
- Your classroom is well-organized and cheerful.
- I really appreciate you sending home the spelling list by email each week.
- My child couldn’t stop talking about the book you read last Friday.
- I sincerely thank you for taking the time out of your day to meet with me.
Bring up your concerns by asking the teacher for help.
Before the conference, write your concerns down on paper and work to restructure them so that you are asking for the teacher’s help instead of confronting or criticizing them. Asking for help, rather than criticizing, fosters collaboration between you and the teacher, which will ultimately lead to better outcomes for your child.
- Instead of: You don’t communicate with me about my child’s progress as much as I’d like.
- Ask: Can you help me support his educational needs by sending home a weekly report?
- Instead of: You assign too much homework for my child to complete in one night, and it’s causing a tremendous amount of stress and anxiety for my child.
- Ask: Can we schedule another IEP meeting to discuss the possibility of homework accommodations to help my child be more successful?
Ask if there is anything you can do to help support the teacher’s efforts with your child.
Even though school is where most of your child’s formal education will occur, what happens at home is what sets them up for success in the classroom. Most teachers will gladly offer suggestions to families to bridge the connection between home and school.
- What can I do to help my child be more prepared each day for school?
- What can I do to help my child be more successful in completing homework?
Finally, ask the teacher how they prefer to communicate with you.
Teachers are busy! Some teachers prefer email, while others may prefer to communicate via educational software such as Parent Square or Class Dojo. Some teachers may still prefer a simple handwritten note.
Showing the teacher you value and respect not only their time but their convenience will go a long way in continuing to build a mutually respectful relationship.
Children are the priority. Change is the reality. Collaboration is the strategy.
– Judith Billings, former Washington State School Superintendent
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