How Do I Express Concerns and Build Teamwork During a Parent Teacher Conference?
Stephanie’s son is in first grade. He comes home from school crying almost every day. He loses his recess and is told to stay on “the wall” because he doesn’t finish his work.
Stephanie asked him why. He said he didn’t know how to do all the work and is afraid to ask his teacher (although he is usually a very outgoing child).
Last year he was excited about school. He asked to have his work put on the fridge. But this year his papers ALL say stuff like “neater please!!” and “stay in the lines,” so he no longer likes to have them put up for family and friends to see.
In one drawing, he colored the little boy purple. The teacher said he did it wrong. This was not an assignment with instructions and Stephanie doesn’t see why he can’t make purple people if his imagination tells him to. Now, he is sad a lot and cries about going to school.
Stephanie wrote the teacher a note asking what he is doing to lose his recess so she could help him at home. She also requested to set up a parent teacher conference to discuss the situation.
The teacher didn’t respond and he lost his recess again. Stephanie does not believe its behavior related since she hasn’t gotten some kind of note.
Stephanie is really worried about her son. She is afraid this is going to affect his attitude about school in the future.
If your child is in the same situation as Stephanie’s son, what is the best thing to do?
First, it is important that you are so involved with your child’s education and have picked up on how what is happening at school is affecting your child emotionally. These emotions could lead to other challenges down the road, so the sooner you talk to your child and teacher the better.
You have good reason to be so concerned when you see a shift in your child’s attitude about school. Sending a note to the teacher is a great start at trying to express your concerns. If the note does not get the desired response you want, call the school and schedule a
parent teacher conference. Even if there is a regular parent teacher conference time, those quick fifteen-minute meetings are NOT the time to raise such in-depth issues as this. If you ask for a conference and the teacher is unresponsive, the next step is to contact the principal.
At the conference, be careful to not accuse the teacher or assume anything. Simply describe what you’ve observed and why this concerns you. Then LISTEN to what the teacher says. Avoid defending your child. You can simply say, “it appears that” or “it’s possible that.” Your goal is to work WITH the teacher to find a solution that works for all three of you. It’s possible the teacher doesn’t realize the effect her comments and actions are having on your child. Reassure her that you know she is trying to help, but that your child may not be interpreting what she’s doing as helpful. As she brings up issues, be sure to tell her what you are doing at home to support her and your child’s education.
Overall, you want recipe for success in school, the teacher to know (a) you support her (b) you want to find a solution that works for everyone (c) you are willing to work with your child at home. If your attitude is one of teamwork, the teacher will probably respond more positively than if she thinks you are complaining, criticizing her or making excuses for your child.
If you do all this and the teacher is unresponsive or unhelpful, ask to have a conference with the principal and share your concerns. I don’t recommend asking your child be moved to a different class. He needs to learn how to deal with situations like this. Instead, keep sending the message “my child is having problems and I am willing to help him, but I need the teacher’s help, too.” Using the “” which includes building a successful attitude and teaching your child skills to be independent will also help your child.
When you take a positive approach during the parent teacher conference, you, your child and the teacher will all be better because of what you learn through the process of resolving the issue using effective communication skills and good problem solving techniques.
To learn effective communication skills and good problem solving techniques to help express concerns and resolve problems respectfully during parent teacher conferences as well as at home, work, or with any challenge you face, get the complimentary 7 Keys to Parenting Success ebook.
Jody Johnston Pawel, LSW, CFLE is the author of the award-winning book, The Parent’s Toolshop and president of Parent’s Toolshop Consulting, where she oversees an international network of Toolshop® trainers. She has 30 years experience as a top-rated speaker and parenting expert to the media worldwide, including serving as the Co-Producer and Parenting Expert for the Emmy-nominated Ident-a-Kid television series. She has interviewed many parenting experts on her Parents Tool Talk radio show and is a parenting expert columnist for Chic Mom magazine. She has produced almost 100 multimedia resources, which are available at her award-winning website, www.ParentsToolshop.com.
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