Making the most of parent-teacher conferences

Children learn best when parents and teachers team up

You’ve probably heard it before but I want to say it again: Parents are a child’s first teacher. I’d like to add that parents are a child’s most influential teacher. That’s why when teachers and parents team up to support and educate a child, amazing learning can happen.

Most conferences for parents of elementary age public school children begin this week. This is your chance to sit down and catch up with your child’s teacher to learn about your child’s progress in school. Allow me to share some tips for making the most of your parent-teacher conferences, no matter what grade your child is in.

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.

If you’re child is in TK through 5th grade, you’ve received a standards-based detailed report card. We want to make sure this report card makes sense to you and helps you understand how to support your child with their learning. That’s why we’re asking parents to share feedback on the elementary report cards this month. Please take a moment to fill out this brief survey here if your child has received SFUSD standard’s based report card.

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.

Emphasize the positive things you learned, and discuss areas where improvements can be made. Make sure your child knows what everyone is going to do next — including your child.

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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