Meeting with your child’s teacher at school is often a routine event. Some schools today require all teachers to meet with parents as measure of good communication. These meetings are routine; no problem there. If you have a concern about any aspect of your child’s progress at school, however, don’t hesitate to request a school conference. Follow these seven steps, and it will put you in the top 5% of parents that communicate with the school.
Take the initiative in addressing the problem. Don’t wait for the school to call you. Regardless of the problem your child is experiencing at school, you tilt the balance in your favor when you take the initiative to set the meeting. Remember, the one calling conference usually directs it.
Stick to the issues. It’s easy for a conference to go off in too many directions. Clearly focus on the issues that make up the problem at school regarding your child.
Examine the facts. Exactly what is the nature of the concern? Be specific, because the problem is specific. Usually, problems at school are behavioral (such as compliance concerns or getting along with other students) or academic. In some cases, problems are BOTH behavioral and academic.
Look at long-range implications. What is the “cost” of the current problem in terms what is happening now and how it will manifest in the future? What would happen if NOTHING were done to address this problem? If there is no significant downside, perhaps no action should be taken at all.
Develop a unified plan. In establishing an action plan to address the problem, suggest that every person at the conference have a specific part in the plan (at least one action item) and is willing to be accountable for it.
Set a time to conference again. The last thing everyone needs is another meeting, but this step is critical. A subsequent meeting should be held a few weeks later in order to assess the effectiveness of the interventions used, each person’s part in those interventions, and what changes should be made, if any.
Follow up with a written acknowledgment. Send a simple “Thank You” note or card to the teacher or school, thanking them for their time and input. This one step alone positions a parent very positively because so few parents ever think to do it. You WILL stand out from the crowd!
In the second part of this article, we’ll look at four possible outcomes of a school conference.
A nationally recognized child and adolescent psychologist and speaker, Dr. James Sutton is the author of The Changing Behavior Book: A Fresh Approach to the Difficult Child. He is the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network, a popular internet radio program supporting young people and their families, and every month he publishes The Changing Behavior Digest, offering tips on managing difficult children and teens. Both resources (and others) are available at no cost through his website, http://www.DocSpeak.com.