Last year, oh, last school year, how I miss you.
My two older boys had the most amazing teachers ever who worked so hard to help them. It may have been why I went a little overboard on teacher appreciation gifts.
Going into this year, I knew absolutely nothing about either one of my boys’ teachers, though I know that extra care was taken with where my first grader was placed. And things seem to be going okay there so far.
But my third grader.
The source of my aggravation is something called a “flipped classroom.” Which basically means that the kids watch the lessons at home via video and then do the practice in class. The opposite of what a traditional classroom is like. His homework was taking an hour and a half to two hours to complete at night. He’s eight, y’all.
Not only was the time factor bothering me, but so was the content of the lessons and the teaching style. It’s confusing and boring. And no, I’m not saying I don’t understand third grade math. I taught third grade math years ago. I LOVED teaching third grade math. But watching these videos made me shake my head. My son’s strongest area is math, but if this was all the instruction he’d get, well, I’d question how the heck he’d ever be able to pass the state test at the end of the year.
It all added up to needing a parent-teacher conference, and not one that I was looking forward to.
Parent Teacher Conference Tips
Having been on the other side of the parent-teacher conference for years before I had kids, I really try to give the teacher the benefit of the doubt. I know the most productive meetings I had were when the parent was honest but calm so that we could work towards a solution that would benefit the child.
But it is, in fact, different to be the parent who has a problem. That’s my baby and it’s hard to keep cool. Here’s what to do to prepare:
Try not to vent on social media before the conference. I’m going to be honest with you and tell you that after the 5th night of 2 hours of homework and a video that I thought would confuse my son more than it would help him and watching him start to tear up because I told him that it was okay if he didn’t have as many notes written about the video as the directions stated(he’s extremely rules-oriented and was afraid of getting a no-homework slip written up)…. that night, I DID vent on facebook. I shouldn’t have, though. Wondering why?
Because friends are friends for a reason: they’ve got your back. And if you say that the homework is so stupid that you are just going to write “this is ridiculous, my son isn’t doing this” in his agenda and sign that, well, your friends are probably going to click “like” and tell you to go get ‘em.
Or maybe it’s not homework, maybe it’s something else that is bothering you about the class. But still, friends will generally back you up and go on their own rants, which will only fire you up more, making it harder to keep your cool.
Plus, keep in mind that it’s a small world. While you might not be facebook friends with your child’s teacher, you could be friends with someone who is and will share your rant. *Cue embarrassment*
Go in with a list of questions.
Figure out what it is that is bothering you about the class. Write it down. Try to reword your questions to sound like you’re looking for a solution, not for a fight.
For example, I wanted to ask “Why is your homework so freaking painful that I want to stab out my eardrums with a blunt knife when I watch your videos?” to “Can you help me understand why you are choosing to have the kids watch the videos?”
You might not end up needing your list, but you can have it to refer to, either for the more polite wording or to make sure you cover all your questions and concerns.
Give the teacher a chance.
Most teachers really are there because they love what they do. They really do want to help your child. Sure, there are some bad apples out there, but don’t automatically assume your child has one of them. It should be a partnership between the teacher and you to have your child succeed: you want that partnership to be a friendly one.
So, be open to hearing what the teacher has to say.
And keep in mind that what your child tells you might not be the full story. Listen to your child’s concerns, but just be aware that a child could either lie to try to stay out of trouble, not really be aware of the full story, or just misunderstand something. Address whatever these concerns are, but do give the teacher a chance.
Don’t yell or name-call.
That really doesn’t do anything for the parent-teacher relationship. And can get you banned from the classroom and can mean that any time you want to talk to the teacher, you have to go through the principal.
Don’t pretend like everything is okay if it’s not.
While you should stay calm, you shouldn’t just smile and nod and agree with everything if you aren’t okay with it. The teacher won’t know what you are upset about or that there is a problem if you don’t speak up. Don’t hold it all in and then go home and be frustrated.
Don’t make a rash decision in the moment.
I’ll be honest with you and say that I’m still not 100% convinced that my son will finish out the school year in the same classroom he’s in right now. But since we did make some headway on the issues I was seeing, I’m giving the teacher some more time. Though switching my son was something my husband and I have discussed, I really didn’t see a need to tell the teacher “well, we’re pulling him out of here” right during the first conference. We need more time to think about it.
What if you really feel like you made no headway in the conference?
Have another conference. Include someone else who knows your child who could help. Maybe it’s a past year’s teacher. Or if you really felt like you weren’t being heard or if you think something needs to be done that is beyond the teacher’s ability to accomplish, request the principal or assistant principal sit in. Have a list of ideas for what you think can be done: going in with possible solutions instead of just complaints(even if they are very valid complaints).
What are your parent teacher conference tips?