Eleven Important Tips When You Meet With a Teacher

Meeting with a teacher to discuss your child’s progress can be a complicated interaction. This entry covers 11 strategies for promoting an effective meeting:

#1 Always attend conferences when they are offered and strive to avoid single parenting in two parent households. Attending conferences, even when everything is going swimmingly, says to both the teacher and your child that your child’s education is very important to you. Moreover, alternating attendance at these meetings with your child’s other parent indicates that you both have this attitude.

#2 Be a few minutes early and stick to the allotted time. This says to the teacher that you value her or his time and appreciate that she or he has a busy day. You can always ask for another meeting if you need more time.

#3 Listen with an open mind to what the teacher has to offer. The more skillful teachers will make it easy for you to avoid getting defensive. However, even if you are dealing with a less tactful person, try to find the value in what is being said. Remaining open, no matter what emotional reactions you are having, is a gift to your child.

#4 Take notes. Not only will this help you later to review the meeting with your child and your child’s other parent(s), but such demonstrates to the teacher that what he or she is saying is important to you.

#5 Express agreement when you agree. This promotes a good working relationship.

#6 Affirm any aspects of the teacher’s approach or behavior that you believe are worthy of affirmation. Of course, you do not wish to exaggerate or be untruthful. This is about honestly enjoying the teacher’s valuable contributions. Teachers often report that complaints can gush but praise can trickle.

#7 If the teacher has not mentioned any strengths, ask for such before engaging a discussion about any problems that might need to be remedied. This is only fair as your child has at least as many strengths as vulnerabilities (and usually many, many more). So, his or her strengths deserve an accounting. Moreover, having your child’s strengths in the forefront can be very helpful if the conversation turns to solving problems.

#8 Use empathy and gratitude. Avoid anger and blaming. This is good counsel for any interaction with another human and will increase the odds that your relationship with the teacher will be effective.

#9 If the teacher has not volunteered such, inquire about grades, homework compliance and quality, effort in the classroom and relationships with both the teacher and with peers. (I find that it is easy to overlook the last element, though it is a very important skill set.)

#10 Share what your child’s homework experience is like, especially if it is taking longer than 10 minutes times his or her grade in school (e.g., if a 6th grader is working earnestly for more than an hour each night). Also share any stresses your child reports experiencing in the classroom (the older your child the more it’s advisable to partner with him or her in how to cast this for the teacher).

#11 Follow up with a thank you note that expresses gratitude, reviews any action steps you’ve agreed to and reviews when you will next communicate. At home I would then review relevant and helpful aspects with both your child and his or her other parent(s).

As I cover in my book, Working Parents, Thriving Families: 10 Strategies that Make a Difference, collaborative and effective relationships with teachers can go a long way in promoting your child’s resilience.

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