What Not to Do At the Parent-Teacher Conference


parent teacher conferencesIt's that time of year again that strikes dread into the hearts of parents everywhere: the parent-teacher conference.

What should be a friendly meeting to discuss your child's progress and talk about how you can best support their education can get tainted with your own feelings about school and teachers, your child's not always accurate reports of what is going on in the classroom, and any amount of other things both related to education and not.

Here's a little secret: Teachers don't really love parent-teacher conference time either. It's often a 12-hour day for them, and parents sometimes come in with their defenses already all the way up and more ready to fight than learn. Here are some teachers' thoughts on what not to do to make it a more productive meeting.

  • Don't show up in your PJs. Failing to get dressed shows you don't take the chance to hear about your child's learning seriously.
  • Don't ask about what the other kids are doing. The focus is on your child; the other kids are, for the most part, irrelevant.
  • Don't pull a no-show. If you are going to miss the appointment, show respect for the teacher by at least calling to let her know.
  • Don't come in looking for an argument. Conferences should be about getting on the same page and working together for the best interests of the child, not a power struggle between the adults.
  • Don't gloss over what's going on at home. If you don't always read 15 minutes at night or let your kids watch TV, tell the truth. Same goes for the way your child feels about school: You don't need to tell the teacher your child hates her, but suggesting that you have some concerns about how they are getting along is okay.
  • Don't forget that your kid at home might be different than your kid at school. Sometimes the meanest child in class is all sweetness and light at home, despite the bruises, hair pulling, and taunting to the contrary.

Opinions were divided on bringing your kids to the conference: Some teachers say it's fine, others say to avoid it, but the general consensus is that if it's possible for both parents to be there without the kids, that's ideal. If the alternative is leaving one parent home, though, bring them along.

How are your parent-teacher conferences going?


Image via ccarlstead/Flickr

education, behavior, grades


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Freela Freela

I'm dreading parent-teacher conference day for my son... it's always a struggle with him.   He has learning disabilities but they are not considered severe enough for him to have an IEP... as a result he's frustrated, I'm frustrated, and I'm sure the teacher is frustrated too.  I am making dh come with me for moral support on this one, since I've spoken to his teacher a few times before and find her a hard person to talk to... so far she tends to talk and then tell me she has to move on before I've had a time to respond to anything.

I also really don't like the trend of having kids present at the conferences, which is how it's done in my area.  I really feel like neither the teacher nor I can speak frankly with the child sitting there watching us.  I plan to leave the kids with a sitter whether it's the 'norm' or not.  I'll fill them in on the details when I get home.

MomIWant MomIWant

So you may learn from my mistakes:  If you see your child's teacher out with a man that is NOT her husband, but obviously she is romantically connected to this stranger, do NOT ask her when she got a divorce at the beginning of the conference. :)

nonmember avatar Allboys

Not to sound like a complete judgemental bitch but how about don't let the parent teacher conference be the first time you lay eyes on your child's teacher for starters.

krist... kristenleigh513

I agree with a few comments.  The child shouldn't be there and I too find that a 15 min. conference is not long enough.  By the time the teacher goes through a few things I don't have time to ask my questions.

Janette Chaviano Alonso

MomIWant--- This kind of sorta happened to me..... I was at a bar when I say my son's karate teacher and he was with another kids mom. They were holding hands to walk thru so I figured her husband (I saw rings at class) was around. Come to find out he wasn't and the next class the teacher asked me not to say anything.......

My oldest son last year I dreaded going to the conference... because he was a totally different person at home verses what his teacher was telling me. School work wise he was above average so I wasn't understanding what was going on and asked her if maybe he was bored and acting out. No No No was her response as she rushed me out the door. He goes to private school so I was soooooo mad that I was being treated this way and was thinking of not going back. This year we had our first one just before Halloween and he is doing great and going to the gifted program.....!

cheez1e cheez1e

I'm on the fence on whether or not I'm looking forward to ours tomorrow. My son has a difficult time, even with an iep, so it's not always fun. My daughter's, on the other hand, should be interesting. She does really well. I am always interested in hearing how they behave in school as you never get the full story from them when asking how their day was!

I DO take my kids to conferences. All 3 of them, frankly I would love to go without them but my husband works almost 12 hours a day and doesn't get home til late so it's not an option for us.

Josh Brenner

I'm a non custodial parent going to my first parent-teacher conference tomorrow.

I almost feel a little helpless. I'm obviously concerned about what I might hear about my child's performance and behavior... but I also don't know how to express to the teacher that there is only so much I can do with limited visitation time with our child. I doubt very seriously the tearcher wants to hear about our family issues. At the same time though... my ex doesn't pay much attention to our child's school work and I don't want her apathy to reflect on me as a parent.

Mamab... MamabearC

Not worried or stressed at all.My 4 kids (ages 12 1/2, 9,8 and 6 1/2)always behave in school and do their work.If there are any subjects they are having difficulty in I ask the teacher what things I can do at home to help them improve,I do it and it makes a difference and they improve. No big deal.Seeing comments about how the kids with learning disabilities aren't getting the help they need is sad and I totally understand the parents fear and frustration.I hope they do get the help they need soon.

Nycti... Nyctimene

I find the parent-teacher conferences utterly pointless. I usually go to the first just to meet the teacher and then ignore the rest. They're usually only about five minutes long. We sit down at a table and the teacher whips folders and pages so fast that I'd have to be robot with photographic memory to even see what they're doing. They'll offer one or two anecdotal comments about my son and then we're out the door faster than they can stand up. 

nonmember avatar Jan

I have been teaching 22 years and one of my favorite days of the year is parent conference day. I get the chance to find out why my students are the way they are. Having the student at the conference is beneficial. Children need to know how they are doing in school. I will ask the student to step outside if I need to discuss certain issues with the parent only. Remember we are just people and have your child's/grandchild's best interest at heart. I love my job!

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