Preparing For Parent-Teacher Meets

Many parents come away from parent-teacher meetings feeling they did not gain much. On the other hand, teachers wish parents would ask meaningful questions. How can we bridge this gap? Read on...

By Team ParentCircle

Preparing For Parent-Teacher Meets

Parents and teachers play a vital role in every child’s life. What they say and do has a tremendous impact not only on the child’s growth and overall development, but also on her behaviour and confidence. When parents and teachers understand and support each other, it is the child who benefits the most. Therefore, the parent–teacher (PT) partnership must be built with care, and based on trust and open communication. 

PT meetings lay the foundation for a trustworthy between parents and teachers. In this special story, we take a 360-degree approach to discuss this very important topic.

We talk to parents and teachers from various schools to understand what they feel about PT meetings and their takeaways. Here’s what they have to say:

What parents say

  1. The meetings are only about handing out the child’s report card. We do not get any meaningful feedback about our child’s performance.
  2. Most of the time, teachers highlight and magnify the child's problems instead of coming up with solutions.
  3. Something is lacking. Such meetings put too much stress on the child and parents. Some children take it so seriously that they can't sleep properly.
  4. We have got bored of hearing the same comments. There's nothing new in these meetings.
  5. PT meetings provide a rare opportunity to be involved as a parent and know how the child is behaving and performing in school. It is also a way of getting to know the teachers.

Questions that teachers wish parents would ask

  1. How is my child behaving in class and school? Is he interacting well with his peers and teachers?
  2. Is my child attentive in class? Does he show interest and participate in discussions? Is my child given opportunities to display his understanding?
  3. How is my child performing in class? Does he have the required academic standard? 
  4.  How is my child’s overall growth — emotional, academic, physical and social? 
  5.  How can I help my child make learning a fun experience at home? How can I work with my child and support him?

What an ideal PT meeting takeaways should be

Parents should: 

  1. Walk away with tips and ideas for activities that they can implement at home. Understand the progress made by their child and accept the corrective measures to be taken with regard to behavioural and academic issues. 
  2. Reflect on parenting techniques when they get to know about their child’s behaviour at school. 
  3. Take the feedback given in a positive way and use it to give their child the necessary support to improve. 
  4. Work together with teachers to find the root cause of their child’s problems and come up with a plan. 
  5. Be responsible for their child. Be firm, not strict. Be flexible with their child and provide her with a positive environment. Motivate and encourage her.

On analysing these responses, the expectations of parents and teachers seem similar but, unfortunately, the outcomes are miles apart. So, how can we bridge this gap? Anjali's story might teach us something.

Anjali got into the sixth standard just three months ago. From day one, she has been struggling in maths and social studies. The poor grades on her report card reflect her struggles. She is scared to approach her new teacher for help as she views her as being too strict and unfriendly. Her parents are extremely busy with their full-time jobs. They are also busy taking care of Anjali’s grandma who was hospitalised for treatment of pneumonia. They’ve not had the time to see her report card. But now, they are scheduled to meet her teacher for the first time, for just 15 minutes, during the first PT meeting of the year.

When Anjali’s parents meet her teacher, they start talking about their busy lives and how their daughter is very accommodating. Then, they talk about the teacher’s family and how she likes her new class and so on. Before they realise, 10 minutes have gone. In the next five minutes, the teacher quickly tells them that Anjali is actually a very smart girl. But, like many of her classmates, she seems a bit distracted. She has not been turning in her homework on time. The teacher asserts that she would like to see Anjali work harder. Anjali’s parents are shocked and upset. They come home and scold Anjali for not turning in her homework and not studying hard. Anjali feels disheartened and is unsure what to do next. 

As you can see, Anjali’s parents missed a wonderful chance to get Anjali the help she needed. And, they are not alone. There are many parents who fail to make the best use of the all-important PT meeting.

How to prepare for a productive PT meet: 

A PT meeting is an opportunity for you to join hands with your child’s teacher to support, motivate and bring out the best in your child. Find out how you can prepare and ensure every minute of your time with your child’s teacher counts. Here are simple steps to guide you in the process.

Before you meet the teacher 

  • Review your child’s progress report 
  • Talk to your child to understand her key concerns, both academic and social, and the areas where she needs help 
  • Talk to your child’s coaches, family members and other caregivers about her behaviour and performance 
  • List your child’s strengths and weaknesses 
  • List all your questions. Prioritise what you want to discuss with the teacher

During the PT meet 

  • Arrive on time and stay calm. 
  • Avoid unnecessary small talk. It is a waste of your precious time. 
  • Don't start accusing the teacher or the school. It will only put the teacher on the defensive. 
  • Actively listen to what the teacher has to say. 
  • If the teacher is critical of your child, don't get defensive. Instead, ask how you can work together to support your child. 
  • Don't shy away from letting the teacher know your child’s strengths and interests. This will help her find ways to motivate your child. 
  • Be open about the weaknesses of your child and the challenges that may be affecting his studies and/or behaviour at school. 
  • Discuss your child’s report card and performance to get clarity on how he is doing in class. You can seek sample classwork and assignments to get a better understanding. 
  • Ask the important questions in the beginning. Don't hesitate to ask for clarifications if you don't understand something the teacher is telling you. 
  • Ask the teacher for assistance in putting together a plan of action to help your child. Who will help your child? The teacher? The tuition master? You? 
  • Find out when and how to get in touch with the teacher to check on the child’s progress as per action plan. 
  • If you think you need more time to discuss certain issues with the teacher, request for another meeting at a time convenient to all of you. 
  • Finally, walk away from the meeting letting the teacher know she plays an important part in your child’s life, and you are her partner in ensuring success for your child.

After meeting the teacher 

  • Discuss with your child the key takeaways from the meeting – the positive feedback from the teacher, areas of concern and plan of action to give her the necessary support 
  • Send a simple thank you note to the teacher 
  • Follow through on recommended actions and check back with the teacher as agreed upon to monitor your child’s progress
Preparing For Parent-Teacher Meets

What Anjali's parents should have done

What if Anjali’s parents had seen her progress report and talked to her before the meeting? They would have known her struggles with maths and social studies, and also her concerns about the teacher. Then, during the meeting, they could have specifically discussed with the teacher Anjali’s difficulty in these two subjects. They could have come up with a plan on how to help her. They could have requested the teacher to reach out to Anjali to make her feel comfortable, as Anjali was scared and hesitant to talk to the teacher.

After the meeting, when her parents find out that Anjali had not been turning in her homework on time, instead of yelling at her, they could have calmly said, “Anjali, we are disappointed that you have not been turning in your homework on time. Can you tell us why this has been happening? Is it because you are finding the work difficult? Or you just don’t care? Whatever the reason, we need to work out a plan so it doesn't happen again. Your teacher will alert us every week if you have missed any homework. We expect you to become more responsible with your work.” Now, Anjali knows her parents really care about her performance at school. Their expectations and positive support motivates her to get the necessary help to do well in school.

Remember, both you and your child’s teacher have a shared goal - your child should do well in school. The parent-teacher meeting is an opportunity for you and the teacher to exchange information on your child’s talents and needs. It sets the stage for you to build a strong partnership of support and trust that will guide your child towards success. 

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