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5 Ways to Approach Your Very First Parent-Teacher Conference

Teacher and parent in classroom
Many parents will be experiencing their very first parent-teacher conference in the coming weeks. These can be exciting, informative, and stressful depending upon the situation. Parents who are  going to their first conference are encouraged to think about a few things that can make their experience better overall as well as obtain information they need about their young learner.

Ask about the curriculum in general
Once parents have been to several conferences, they should be relatively familiar with the curriculum. However, parents who are adjusting to their child entering school for the first time will likely have a ton of questions. It’s good to know what, in general, will be covered within the classroom environment so parents know what to expect and know what they need to supplement, if anything. For instance, some schools offer a comprehensive electives program even for younger students. They may have art and music, science fairs, and field trips that provide a well-rounded education. On the other hand, some schools will not cover much past the core subjects.

Ask if your child is where he or she should be at this point in the year
It’s always good to know if your child is where he or she should be at this point in the year. Although, each student will meet academic benchmarks within a different time range, and this often depends upon their birth month at this young of an age, it’s good to know if they are on track or not. If a student is only a few weeks behind in their development, parents may decide to keep an eye on the situation and conference later on. However, if the teacher has a dire concern, it may be necessary to investigate further.

If grades are an issue ask about ways to improve
Some students will receive excellent grades while others will not. If the teacher feels the student is not reaching their potential, it’s good for the parents to know straight away. One thing to ask is how the grades are given. If grades are primarily given based on academic performance, the student may need extra help outside of the classroom or may need to review a particular subject. On the other hand, if grades are handed out based on improvement or behavior and participation, parents might want to work on these non-academic issues before they have a long term effect.

Ask about socialization in the school environment
Part of a young student’s experience at school is learning how to make friends, share, and work in a group. It’s a good idea to ask about the specific social environment within the school. Some schools will require students to adhere to strict behavior policies, often preventing socialization while others may provide a lot of time for structured socialization skill-building. Students who don’t have an opportunity to socialize in the younger grades may wish to join an after school activity so they can enjoy the social elements of growing up.

Involve your child in the evaluation where appropriate
Sometimes, it’s a good idea for children to be aware of the results of their parent-teacher conferences while other times it’s not. Parents will know best what their kid can and can’t handle. If appropriate, it may be good for a young learner to know that they’re doing great in, say, reading, but they might need a little extra help with addition and subtraction.

Additionally, if there are any social or behavioral issues it might be a good idea to speak with your child about why they have difficulty sitting still or why it’s hard to make friends. Sometimes, it turns out that the student gets cranky because they’re hungry and simply need a snack. While other times they may be rather shy and need help being introduced to new friends and social situations.

Robyn Scott is a private English tutor at TutorNerds. She attended the University of California, Irvine as an undergraduate and the University of Southampton in England as a graduate student. She has worked with students from the United States, Japan, South Korea, the European Union, and Africa.

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