Many parents feel nervous and apprehensive when it comes to attending Parent-Teacher interviews. They wonder what they should ask, what the teacher will think of them and how to make best use of these fifteen minutes of scheduled face-to-face time with the adult that is having a huge impact on their child’s education. I was no exception, even after conducting these nights as a teacher for 15 years!
The most important thing to remember is that your child’s teacher is almost always going to be a good person who also only wants the best for your child. This is your chance to meet that person and hear what they are doing to help your child achieve his or her best. So try not to be intimidated by the “teacher” persona and avoid being influenced by your own past experiences of school. If you can attend with a positive mindset, your interview is going to be far more productive and rewarding.
It’s important to listen to what the teacher has to say, accepting that your child is very unlikely to be perfect, and to use the opportunity to build a plan for meeting your child’s needs. It’s useful to think through what you hope to get out of this interview and what you would like to know. Here are some useful questions to ask:
What are my child’s strengths? Any teacher worth their salt will lead with these. It’s great to hear what your child does well, both socially and academically. However, if the teacher seems overly focused on where your child needs improvement, ask them this question so that you have a positive to discuss with your child too.
Is my child achieving at the class standard in all areas? Rather than asking about weaknesses directly, you may choose to work on areas where your child can improve to reach the level of their peers. This will lead onto the next question.
How can I help my child improve? Asking for specific advice to build your child’s skills is useful for you and your child, and also shows the teacher that you see yourself as a partner in your child’s education. You might get some ideas for things you can do at home that will make a great difference.
Is my child’s behaviour in class helping or hindering their development? It’s good to know this, even if there’s not a lot you can do to influence your child’s behaviour when you’re not present. My daughter for instance, used to get frustrated and angry when she couldn’t complete work in Year 1. We practised resiliency strategies at home and this was reinforced at school, and over the year, this behaviour has abated.
How is my child getting along with other students? Not only could you learn about your child’s social development, but you could also learn about classroom interactions that may contradict what you see on the playground or at home. This is also an excellent way to lead into a conversation about friendships that you are hoping to encourage or discourage.
Remember that while this interview may be the only formal time scheduled for the year, you can always request appointments later for updates. Most teachers are happy to call or email parents if you’re unavailable at hometime. Whether it’s primary or high school, interested parents can have a huge impact on their children’s success in the classroom. A good relationship with the parents of a student can only help the teacher as well, so if you need to meet to discuss a new or ongoing issue during the year, just ask.