Parent teacher conferenceI remember the first parent-teacher conference I had as a parent. Henry was three and in pre-school, and I was sitting in a teeny-tiny chair at a very small toddler-sized table.  We talked about the social, emotional, and developmental aspects of childhood learning, and I felt very much at ease by Henry’s teacher’s care and compassion.

Conferences may only happen once or twice throughout the year, but they are important because they establish a partnership between everyone: parent, student, and teacher. 

Being on the parent side of the conference can be a bit unnerving. Not knowing what to expect and “hoping for the best” may be how some feel when preparing to attend a conference. Some of these feelings can be overcome by planning ahead. 

Have questions ready. Teachers often like to open the conversation with your questions, so having specific questions or concerns to address can create the pathway to open communication. Asking a general question such as, “How is Johnny doing in your class?” may not indicate your true intent. Asking something like, “Does Johnny seem to be distracted in class?” will help your child’s teacher understand your concern and be able to provide more specific information to your question. This can lead to a more strategic plan for your child’s success. 

Be open-minded to areas of concern. Yes, there may be issues that need to be addressed. Sometimes these are simply observations that may lead to an important conversation about your child’s progress. Your child’s teacher will appreciate your attention just as much as you will appreciate your teacher’s concern for your child’s well-being. Listening to one another and creating a “let’s work together” attitude is better in the long run for everyone.  

Let your child’s teacher know if there is something going on at home. There have been many occasions where parents have emailed me to let me know that something has been happening at home that may impact their child’s learning. Conflicts at home will surface at school in a variety of ways, which may look like disruptive behavior, apathy, anger, or disinterest in something that used to be enjoyable. What may be passed off as a “tween” or teenage attitude can be monitored more closely if you alert your child’s teacher to issues at home.  

Pay attention to the positives. Teachers may share positive praise with you about your child. After all, we do see them for more hours of the day than you do! Likewise, it is good to share positive things that your child is doing outside of school. Building relationships with students is a key factor in their success, so when I am able to say, “Hey! I heard you had a great game this weekend,” students feel care and concern.  Students who feel connected to an adult at school are more likely to seek them out if they have a problem. 

Getting to know students and families is an important part of the job—just as important as it is for parents to know their child’s teacher. A good relationship between school and home can foster a love of learning and a path to success, which is what we all wish for our children. And, yes—I, like most teachers, consider your children to be “ours” too. 


Deirdre Johns is Mom to Henry, an eight and a half-year-old lover of animals and nature. She has been teaching English for thirteen years, currently at Hilton Head Christian Academy, and has lived in the Lowcountry with her family since 2012.