This week, I will have 19 parent-teacher conferences. After nine years as a first-grade teacher, you might think conference week is a breeze for me. This is definitely not the case. Preparing for conferences and organizing my thoughts can be a challenging task. I always struggle with the desire to ‘make it perfect’ so that the you leave with a true depiction of your child as student in my classroom. I want to have time to explain the difference between ‘CVC words’ and ‘sight words’ without making it seem like an overwhelming mess of educational vomit. I want to talk about more than just academics, because, after-all, it is first-grade. Human interaction is an important part of life. I want to share the stories of all the cute things your child does. I want to tell you that your child is so determined, hardworking, and thinks deeply. I know these traits will take him far in life. I also need to tell you that your child sometimes rushes through his work or doesn’t eat his lunch when you pack a turkey sandwich. (I also don’t want to sound rude, because I commend you for finding the time to make your child’s lunch in the first place.) The list goes on and on….and on.
But then, after talking to my sister about her upcoming conference for my niece, I realized this is a big deal for parents, too. While I might not be able to quiet my busy mind tonight as I try to fall asleep and mentally prepare, I thought it might be helpful to share a few tips for parents.
- Ask Questions
You won’t look like you’re stepping into a business-meeting if you bring a notebook and a pen. Write down anything you want to discuss. Bring your child’s report card as a reference. Just like I tell your children, It is okay to ask questions. Personally, I don’t think it’s rude to inquire about report card scores or even what your child reports to you at home. Most teachers are happy to explain and talk about truly anything.
2. It’s okay to show emotions
Sometimes children struggle- at home or at school. Sometimes they struggle in both places. They can struggle behaviorally, emotionally, or with academic content. Sometimes it’s indicative of something major that will impact your child’s life in school for years to come. Sometimes, it’s just a bump-in-the-road. Sometimes children say things like, “My work is too hard. I don’t like to read.” or “I don’t have any friends on the playground.” I’m not a parent, but I can imagine how painful and difficult those things are to hear. It’s okay to tell me that you’re worried. Chances are, I might be worried, too. I care about every aspect of your child.
3. I can’t see everything
Boy, I wish I could. Sometimes I miss something- like an unkind word muttered from one student to another. I encourage your children to talk to me when something is bothering them. I hope you will do the same.
4. Interrupt me
Well, maybe not literally, but you know what I mean. Sometimes I get on such a roll. Please feel free to jump-in whenever necessary.
5. This is not ‘it’
We can meet again. (And again and again.) We can meet as many times as we need to. It is never a bother to have a phone conversation or meet in person. Yes, I do have 18 other students, but they all matter. We will be together for another 100+ days, and I know we can find time.
***Here is my favorite website created by a teacher. I have been following her for over ten years. (Insane, right?!) She has tons of incredible resources for teachers (and parents).