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Strategies for Successful Parent-Teacher Interviews

Updated: Nov 7, 2019

THE 5 GOLDEN RULES FOR UNCOMFORTABLE PARENT-TEACHER INTERVIEWS



We sit on tiny chairs, hoping for a glowing review and a pat on the back. But sometimes the teacher’s feedback can make us anxious or defensive.


The first round of parent-teacher interviews can be sticky. They’re ridiculously rushed— 5 to 10 minutes in reality.  Your child’s teacher is still getting to know the students at this point in the year.  And both parents and teacher are feeling each other out, often tiptoeing around uncomfortable subjects.   Here are 5 tips for finding creative solutions to common issues:


1) UNDER-PERFORMING CHILD? FIGURE OUT THE WHYS AND WHENS

Sometimes a child seems to be struggling more than they were last year, with dips in their marks or complaints that “things are harder.”  Or perhaps your child just doesn’t seem to care that much, and produces sloppy or rushed work.  


Questions to ask the teacher:

  • Do you think the issues are a matter of motivation or ability?

  • Do the marks seem balanced, or are test scores lower than classwork or homework? Or is it the other way around?  

  • Are the routines or expectations in this classroom different from what my child is used to?

  • Is the work level right for my child?

Tips: Unmotivated kid? Make sure that poor performance is not the result being under-challenged. Bad marks on tests? Learning targeted ‘test attack’ skills could help. New routines? Clear up any confusion and make sure that your child knows what’s expected.



2) ASK ABOUT NEXT STEPS FOR SUPPORT 

Sometimes, your child’s teacher may share a concern, without a suggesting any solutions. Be sure to ask what will be done about it at school.


Questions to ask the teacher:

  • Can extra support be provided in this school during class hours?

  • Is there a class volunteer who can offer any one-to-one help?

  • Are there any special programs that would be a good fit to address this issue?

Tips: Classroom teachers may not be familiar with all of the supports available, so if your kid is having academic or social struggles, ask for a meeting with the school’s Learning Resource Teacher. They might have other ideas about Board-wide services or be able to put more supports in motion—ie: an IEP (Individualized Education Plan).  Read about Ontario’s IEP process here


3)  IDENTIFY HIDDEN TRIGGERS

If the teacher has any concerns about behaviour or focus, work together to find underlying reasons for the difficulties, and brainstorm simple solutions.


Questions to ask the teacher:

  • Are the challenges exacerbated at particular times of the day?

  • Could my child be hungry or in need of a break?

  • Does my child struggle more when the classroom is busier?

  • Are the issues more noticeable during group work or independent work?

  • Is my child more distracted when sitting farther away from the teacher?

Tips: Antsy kid? Try a stretch break with a walk to the bathroom A kid who gets cranky when hungry? Build in a discreet snack before the official nutrition break Agitated by an active room? Designate a hidden corner for sensory breathers An easily-distracted kid? Sit them at the front. Or maybe it’s time to get those eyes tested.


4) BE TRANSPARENT

It is important to be open and honest about any issues that could be affecting your child at home or at school. Offer relevant information that may help the teacher to better understand your child’s circumstances.

Questions to ask the teacher:

  • Have you noticed any issues with my child’s demeanour?

  • Is there an assessment or support that we should pursue outside of school?

  • Should we see the doctor about any issues?

Tips: Make the teacher aware of major stresses for your kid (i.e: changes in your living situation, major health issues, parent separations, or shift work that leads to long parental absences or erratic schedules.)

5) LISTEN NON-DEFENSIVELY

Remember, you and the teacher are on the same side—you both want to see a child who is thriving in the classroom.

Questions to ask the teacher:

  • What have you observed that has led to your concerns?

  • Are they specific to my child or are they general classroom issues?

  • Could these issues be caused by the  current classroom dynamic?

  • Do you suggest any changes to our home routines that might be helpful?

Tips Do you think the teacher is being unfair or incorrect in his/her assumptions? Don’t outwardly dismiss their opinion. Sleep on it and do your best to consider where they might be coming from before making a complaint or getting argumentative. If you still have concerns about the teacher’s attitude, have another meeting, and ask to invite the Learning Resource Teacher in order to have more perspectives at the table.


AND THE BIGGEST TIP OF ALL…

If your brief parent-teacher interview leaves you with more questions, book a  follow-up meeting!  If possible, set another date before you leave.