Nobody looks forward to parent-teacher conferences.

 

  There are really only 2 kinds of conferences:

 

  • Your child is doing poorly, academically or behaviorally, and you’ve been called in to face the music.

  • Your child is doing fine/well and you have called your child’s teachers in against their will.

 

 

Regardless, very few conferences are attended by excited, happy volunteers.  As teachers, we have to balance our responsibility to be honest in the interest of helping your kid, while also remaining mindful of the “customer is always right” mentality that has unfortunately infected every aspect of American life. 

 

Alright, so we have identified the problem; nobody is happy to attend parent-teacher conferences, but what can YOU do to improve the situation not only for yourself, but for your child and their teacher?

 

The best and easiest way is to stay in contact with your child’s math teacher. 

Problems in math don’t generally arrive suddenly.

 

Open a line of dialogue early in the year with your child’s math teacher, and occasionally check-in for any issues.  

I was 100x more likely to reach out about a small issue if I already had a line of communication with the parent.  

 

You have to understand that most teachers teach around 150 students at a time.  Sometimes even 180+ is possible. 2 missed homework assignments isn’t enough to prompt a huge effort, but if I already had your email, and we have already communicated, I might drop you a quick message.

To really hammer home this point, let me inform you of what typically has to happen to set up a parent-teacher conference:

 

    1. I (your child’s teacher) look up who your child’s guidance counselor is.  I then contact them, via email, asking to set up a conference. 
    2. The guidance counselor has maybe 500 students, so there is some delay in taking action.
    3. The guidance counselor attempts to contact you.  Maybe you missed the call? Wait a few more days to finally connect.
    4. The guidance counselor reaches out to all 7 or 8 of your child’s teachers to ask if they want to attend the meeting.
    5. The meeting is finally set for sometime next week.  It has now been at least 2 weeks, maybe more.  

Now you see that I’m not going to set this beast in motion unless there is something serious to discuss.  However by the time we actually meet, whatever was going on has likely snowballed into a full-blown crisis.  You arrive at school, your child has a 43% in math, and you are upset this is the first you’re hearing about it. 

 

 Another way to have better conferences is to always bring your child with you 

 

Many schools have started calling them Parent-Student-Teacher conferences for that reason.  Newsflash, your child lies to you. So many meetings end without resolution because the key witness is absent.  Your child is the key to resolving whatever issue exists.  Of course they won’t want to come, but you must bring them.  If they have told you that a teacher isn’t fair to them, or they “don’t teach anything”, let them come and say it themselves.  The reality is that if your child won’t say it in front of their teachers and admin, then it is probably less than the truth.  While your child may be telling YOU they have no homework, they can’t get that past the teacher assigning it.

 

While your child may be telling YOU they have no homework, they can’t get that past the teacher assigning it.

My final point is, I believe, the most important:

Whatever your preconceived notions are entering a conference, keep an open mind and above all LISTEN.  

 

Asking questions and listening are going to help you and your child far more than demanding and insisting.  Think of a parent-teacher conference like a checkup at the doctor.  When you go to the doctor, you listen to the results of your tests, and ask questions about what has been bothering you, right?  You don’t sit down with your doctor and start demanding he prescribe you medicine and order some tests.  Do the same with your child’s teacher, and you’ll be amazed with the results.  

Here are some ways to get what you want through more gentle, positive methods:

 

Instead of saying: Say this instead:
I want you to call me every time my child misses even a single assignment. How can I better stay on top of his/her grades?  Is there any way to know right away if they miss something?
I want you to give my child extra homework. (for remediation, or advancement) I really want to get him/her extra help.  Can you recommend a way they can get some extra practice?
I want you to check in with my child to make sure they understand during class. What can he/she do during class if they don’t understand? What’s the best way for them to let you know they are lost?
I want him/her to re-take/resubmit/make up past assignments to raise his/her grade. In regards to all these past poor grades, is there anything he/she can do to improve them? 
Can you tutor/help my child after school? Does the school offer any after-school help for struggling students?

Summary List:

How to have better conferences:

1. Open communication with the teacher early in the year.

2. Always bring your child to conferences.

3. Always come with an open mind and listen to what the teacher is saying. They are the experts.

Another great way to avoid conferences with the math teacher? Get your child enjoying math again.  We all perform better when we enjoy and understand what we’re doing.  Sign your teen up for the Math is Amazing Math Camp and help them discover a love of mathematics again. 

Maybe your child has recently gotten that “A” on a test or report card.  Find a fun, mathematical reward for them at the Math is Amazing Math Shop! 

If you do find your child ever in need of math tutoring help, I also provide some limited tutoring availability at The Best Math Teacher.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or would like to discuss anything further at Manhar@mathisamazing.com