The Positive Potential of Parent-Teacher Conferences
No matter what time of year it is, it might be a good time to request a conference with one of your gifted child’s teachers. In the beginning of the year, you might want to make sure the teacher has certain information or knowledge that would help him work effectively with your child. At any other point in the year, you might want to correct a problem, or ask for more challenging information, or request a change in methods, in time management, or in individualized content. Regardless, you’re going to want to make sure your conference is as productive as possible as your time, and the time of the teacher is valuable, and as you want to ensure the most effective outcome for your child.
Before the conference, be sure you’ve established positive contact with the teacher so that you enter the conference on a positive, constructive note. Be sure to speak with your child about how things are going at school and what school changes would be on her wish-list. Think of questions you have for the teacher based on all the information you have at that point and prioritize them. Collect data or information from other professionals that you feel would be important to share with the teacher.
During the conference, be cognizant of the time and, if you’ve initiated the conference, state your goal for the meeting quickly into the discussion. Remember that students do behave differently at school than at home. Start with a positive comment your child has made about the classroom. Don’t be defensive or surprised to hear about an issue you weren’t aware of. Ask clarifying questions and take notes about significant points. Be sure to share any information about family-related events that might affect school performance or behavior. If you disagree with a point made by the teacher, ask for more information or express a different perspective. Be a good advocate for your child’s specific abilities. Participate in developing an action plan with the teacher to address the topics of the conference. Set dates for follow up via meetings, phone, emails, etc. Thank the teacher for the conference and end on a positive note.
After the conference, send a courtesy follow-up note. Give your child feedback and follow through with your part of any actions plan put into place. Maintain contact with the teacher and be involved in school activities.
Remember you are a team, both of you working in the best interests of the student. Make sure your child knows that cooperation exists. With everyone working together you can make great strides in differentiating programs for gifted children, in individualizing content and pace for unique and fast learners, and can help the student feel supported, understood, and valued.
Please share any productive strategies you have used, either as a teacher or as a parent, in working together as a team, both during and beyond conferences. I’m sure it would be helpful to many others in similar situations.
All the best,