Making the Most of Back-to-School Night and Parent-Teacher Conferences

A new school year often means getting to know a new teacher. Meeting our child’s teachers at parent-teacher conferences or Back to School night can be exciting, daunting, or combination of the two. These opportunities are not to be missed though. They provide context for our child’s learning experiences and can reshape our own perceptions about school as well. The key is to show up well-prepared to make the most of the meeting.

Back-to-School nights showcase your child’s teacher and what will be taught in the coming year. It’s a snapshot and your chance to make a good first impression. Be attentive. Offer a handshake, a smile and one thing your child enjoys about the teacher or what has been taught. That’s it. It is not the time try discussing the particular learning needs of your child. That’s what parent-teacher conferences are for. If conferences aren’t automatically scheduled in your school’s calendar, almost every teacher will meet upon request.

Parent-teacher conferences help you learn about your child’s experience in the classroom and how well he or she is meeting the teacher’s expectations. If your child has slowly emerging academic and/or executive functioning skills, a parent-teacher conference is your opportunity to ask how accommodations or modifications may be made, and how the teacher would like you to help at home.

If your child’s teacher doesn’t offer this information explicitly, ask about expectations for homework. How long should homework take? What happens if your child has spent the designated length of time, but hasn’t finished? What if your child doesn’t understand a concept, especially in math or science? At the end of the conference, remember to ask when and how your child’s teacher prefers students to ask for help – before school, during lunch, after school, via email, etc. Also, consider letting the teacher know that if he or she has concerns, you are always available to discuss your child further.

Following the parent-teacher conference, help your child build a strong working relationship with his or her teacher. If your child needs to ask the teacher questions, help your child draft the questions to be asked and if needed, practice via role play how he or she will approach the teacher and what he or she will say.

Maintaining your working relationship with your child’s teacher is important too. Ask if you can volunteer to help. You can offer to chaperone a party or prepare materials from home for a craft project or science lesson. You can also offer to organize an event or the donation of classroom supplies. Don’t be discouraged if your offer is rejected. Each teacher has his or her own preferences.

Understanding the context of your child’s learning experience will allow you to accurately provide the support your child needs. Establishing a good working relationship with your child’s teacher may start at Back-to-School Night or a parent-teacher conference, but the benefits will carry over throughout the year and beyond.


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