by Gerald Donovan
A large amount of research shows that parental involvement is the most important factor in a student’s success in school. But too often, because of work commitments and the crammed schedules of modern life, some parents’ involvement with their children’s education is limited to the parent-teacher conferences that come once or twice per year.
This puts a huge weight of importance on the effectiveness and productivity of these conferences; this weight should be carried by both the teacher and the parents.
Conferences where all parties stay calm and avoid blaming each other for any problems the child may be facing are by far the most effective. Clear and probing conversation is always going to lead both parties towards their ultimate goal; helping your child do well.
Questions that a teacher may ask could involve your child’s likes and dislikes at home, her listening and work habits, and her external hobbies and interests.
While this might feel like prying, it is just part of a process to improve the way in which your child is instructed at school. Every child learns and develops in a different way and no-one knows more about an individual child or holds more sway over that child’s behavior than their own parents.
The teacher is also responsible for preparing well for the conference. There should be a good selection or portfolio of your child’s work to be viewed and discussed.
The teacher should also come to the conference with a clear set of ideas that could help your child develop better in those areas that need improving.
You, as a parent, also need to prepare well for the conference. The first step is to talk to your child beforehand and ask them what they think their strengths and weaknesses are and whether they would like you to discuss anything in particular with their teacher.
It is vital that your child does not see the conference as a threatening event where he will be discussed behind his back. Some schools avoid this issue by holding “”three-way””; Parent – Teacher – Student conferences but if your child’s school does not, you should express clearly to him that the goal of the conference is to help him, not to criticize or pick apart his academic performance.
You should also jot down a few notes before you join the conference including any concerns you have about the school’s programs or policies, your individual child’s progress and ways in which you might work together in the future.
The most common parental question in these conferences; “”How is my child’s progress at school?”” does not generally provoke useful answers as the vast array of different factors that answer this question can not be covered all at once.
More effective questions could include; “”How well does my child interact with others?””,my child working to the best of her ability?””, “”What kind of evaluation is being done?””, “”What skills and knowledge will my child be asked to master this year?”” “”What are my child’s strongest and weakest subjects?””, anddoes my child handle pressure such as test-taking and confrontations?””.
Once again, note taking and a plan of action are important if the conference is to have any positive actions. Discuss a study plan with the teacher then put it into motion with your child.
But don’t just leave it there; continuous monitoring of your child’s behavior, class work and homework is the only way to ensure that the parent-teacher conference has the lasting effect of helping your child get the best education they possibly can.
The writer works for Sekolah Bogor Raya; a national plus school.