Sandra Berger, M.Ed.
Whether you have specific goals to discuss with
the teacher, use these five guidelines and five questions
to make the most of your parent-teacher conferences. From our partner,
the Council for
Five Guidelines to Take
- Plan ahead.
The more prepared you are, the more you'll accomplish. Write out
your questions in advance. Bring some of your child's work that the
teacher might not have seen, especially if your child is a basement
scientist, a closet poet, or is highly advanced in any academic
- Establish a feeling of teamwork.
Be specific about some things you really liked about your child's
school experience so far this year. Describe some specific things
your child enjoys doing at home or in extracurricular activities.
- Listen carefully for positive or
negative ways the teacher describes your child.
Does the teacher think your child is stubborn or persistent,
communicative or an annoying chatter box, the class clown or someone
with a keen sense of humor, a pest or inquisitive?
- Clarify expectations -- yours and the
Model positive ways of acting that you want the teacher to use; for
example, ask open ended non-judgmental questions to encourage many
- Don't assume that the teacher has a
great deal of experience with educating gifted children.
Some teachers believe that if a child gets one answer wrong, she's
not gifted, and that giftedness equals perfection. Many teachers
misunderstand a gifted child's tendency to learn by either moving
through a subject more slowly and deeply, or by skimming the surface
of many topics.
Five Questions to Ask the
What are your academic goals
for the year?
Focus on your child's progress with respect to the teacher's class
goals. If your child has already mastered subjects described by the
teacher, discuss and give examples of the level your child has
- What do you see as my child's strengths;
can you give me some examples?
Probe beyond "I enjoy having Johnny in my class."
- What are some areas that my child needs
to work on?
The teacher's answers might give you a sense of your child's
accomplishments in areas that are not strengths.
- How would you evaluate my child's
If the teacher hasn't thought about this, can you describe ways that
your child prefers to learn -- for example, alone or with others, by
seeing or hearing, in a very quiet space or with a radio playing? If
you think your child is a visual spatial learner, it's important to
tell the teacher, because many teachers assume students are linear
- How can I help?
Determine the specific areas where you can help the educational
process at home or by bringing materials to school for everyone to
use. This is an excellent way to emphasize your child's strengths
and share with other children who might have similar needs.
At the end of the conference, summarize the
main points, especially if you or the teacher have agreed to take some
action. When you get home, write a thank-you note, and share
appropriate parts of the conference with your child.
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