a modern family blog

mama diaries {how to survive parent teacher conferences}

oh my goodness. maybe it’s just me, but i feel an intense amount of anxiety walking into parent teacher conferences. is it just me? please tell me i’m not alone. before you go, you’re kind of in the dark. you’ve basically got your kid’s account of daily happenings to go on. and what child gives the best picture of their contributions to elementary school classroom culture? yours does? if so, you can stop reading here and go hug your amazing children.

i get my classroom/kid updates in three beautifully inefficient ways:

  1. the kid version of an after-school download. my kids are talkers, and i like to think i hear about quite a bit of the inner workings of the school – but nothing close to something that would give me confidence that they are performing well and being nice from a social perspective. i get the general idea that they are liked (which i basically measure by whether or not they get invited to birthday parties…is that shallow?), they are happy (aka, rarely say they don’t want to go to school) and i smile when i read the work they bring home. but that’s it.
  2. classroom update emails. i’m sure you’re familiar. those weekly/bi-weekly/monthly/unpredictable teacher emails/updates. those notes from the teacher that at first you think will be about your child and something they’ve done wrong (seriously, am i the only one that expects the worst? i’m awful). but really are high level updates good for broad awareness of topics they are covering and what class party or school closing is coming up.
  3. backpack express. a million pieces of paper that come home on a daily basis in a backpack. and you’re supposed to digest, put on a calendar and/or sign and return. sometimes with a check.

with all this incomplete information about how the kids spend SIX HOURS of their day, where is my confidence? how in the hell do i walk into a teacher conference where they are going to tell me if my kid is achieving what they should, may or may not have a future, might never go to college. kidding of course. at least logically.

but i know this worry falls on us all. and i am lucky enough to spend time at school volunteering in the classroom (when asked…bc not all of the teachers want that), and basically spying on my kids. i still worry. i still don’t know what to expect.

so when you walk in that room, what do you do? here’s what i wish someone had told me.

do a little pre-meeting work and prep.

it’s not totally necessary, but it’s good to get your mind around it. just like you would do for any meeting at work. write down questions you have for the teacher, what you think strengths and weaknesses are for your child. what types of conversations you’ve been having about school – if you have any concerns, etc. now you’re ready to be productive!

when you get to the meeting, listen.

just let the teacher talk. i find myself adding anecdotes about my child, as i nervously wait for detail. i should just shut up. listen. and digest what they are saying. it’s really important because it’s a lot of information, and listening is important for the next part.

be your kid’s advocate.

it seems like a no brainer, but sometimes you need to question what the teacher is saying, or how they’re evaluating. i was raised to respect teachers, and not question them. so, this is a little hard for me. the child inside wants to please, wants to agree with what the teacher is saying. but then afterward, this time, i found myself questioning what i was going back and reading. for example. one of my kids got 100% on math fluency facts. yet, the teacher rated him as ‘close to meeting’ what he was supposed to be doing – i should have called this out. questioned it. but it was just a lot at once, and i didn’t process it right. i just went along with it.

take some time to digest.

re-read what they gave you, and then get back to the teacher if you have follow up questions. it really is a two-way street. i’ve already had a few post-conference emails, and it’s making me feel a little better each time. knowing that you can follow up will make the meeting itself a little less intense.

these little meetings aren’t the end all be all. they aren’t where you decide your child’s future. they are an update. a connection with the teacher. and a point where you can shed some light on the inner workings of your child, to a teacher who is juggling 20+ of them everyday. it gives you a chance to ask your child more specific questions at home, and be that supportive parent you’ve always wanted to be. let it help you and your child, just don’t let it consume you. just a piece of the pie, mama.

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