Parent-teacher conferences, being done virtually this year, remain a critical part of the educational process. (Shutterstock photo)

Parent-teacher conferences, being done virtually this year, remain a critical part of the educational process. (Shutterstock photo)

Making the most of parent-teacher conferences

A few questions to consider as you prepare to meet your child’s instructor

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I’ve said it before but it’s worth saying again: Parents are a child’s first teacher. Parents are also a child’s most influential teacher. And during this time of distance learning to prevent the spread of COVID-19, parents are more pivotal in their child’s education than ever.

Most conferences for parents of elementary and middle school age public school children begin next week, and for the health and safety of students, families and staff, conferences will be done virtually this year.

This is your chance to meet and catch up with your child’s teacher to learn about your child’s progress in school. Middle school parents will actually experience conferences led by students themselves. Student-led conferences provide the opportunity for our students to reflect on their learning and share their experience with their parents and other caring adults from their school.

At these middle school conferences students will share successes, challenges and set goals for their work moving forward. Student led conferences are different from the traditional parent teacher conference. During their conference, students practice public speaking skills by leading and facilitating the meeting. The role of adults is to listen and support students in their reflection and learning as they monitor their progress toward their goals.

No matter what grade your child is in, consider these questions before you head to your child’s conference.

What is my child expected to learn this year?

Ask what is being studied. This is also a good time for the teacher to show you what your child did for class projects and other assignments. The teacher can review the grade level standards your child is learning.

How are they progressing?

It’s not enough to know the standards, we also want to know how well your child is progressing toward meeting these standards. We actually create multiple ways for teachers to assess the progress your student is making during the school year. Ask the teacher to share the results of any assessments done so far and to share work samples from your child’s classroom projects and assignments.

What are my child’s strengths?

Ask about where your child is excelling. It’s important to reinforce and build on these with your child. You might even learn about something your child loves that you didn’t know about. You can also use this time to tell the teacher what you see as strengths in your child.

In which area does my child need improvement?

This question is crucial. Ask the teacher what support your child is receiving in the classroom to improve in subjects where your child is experiencing challenges.

Talk it over with your child

Conference over? You’re not quite done. Make sure you talk one-on-one with your child after the meeting, even if your child is part of the conference.

We appreciate all the additional stressors parents are under. Please be sure to make time for your parent/teacher conference. These conferences are a fundamental part of being involved in your child’s education. Not only do they send the message to your child that their education matters, they also can help you become a better teacher for your child.

Vincent Matthews is the superintendent of schools for the San Francisco Unified School District. He is a guest columnist.

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