So you've been scheduled 10-15 minutes to drill the teacher about your child's performance and well-being at school. You've just received your child's school report and have a number of issues to discuss. How do you make the most of your brief meeting?
Talk to your child first
Ask your child if there is anything they anticipate will be raised by their teacher and anything they would like you to bring up at the interview?
Are they struggling with a subject, unhappy about an aspect of school life, or involved in a specific incident that needs to be followed up on? Review and discuss your child's work and report card with them. Are they happy with their progress? Do they have any concerns? Are they confused about any of their marks?
Prepare a list of questions
Not too many - you only have 10-15 minutes - but ensure you've covered your principal concerns.
Take a notepad
Your child's teacher may highlight areas for improvement, offer suggestions or even recommend web sites that you will want to take note of.
Arrive on time
Better still, arrive 10-15 minutes earlier. Parent teacher interviews are usually scheduled back-to-back. If you are even five minutes late, it will have a knock on effect on subsequent interviews. If you arrive early and another parent has not shown up, you may be able to nip in earlier and save the teacher from working way past their scheduled appointment times.
Turn off your phone
Obvious but easily forgotten.
Listen to what the teacher has to say first
Stay calm and try not to get defensive if you don't like what you're hearing. Your teacher may see a different side to your child when they are at school. Remember the teacher is not your enemy, nor your child's, but somebody who wants to partner with you to help your child succeed.
Avoid general questions like, "So how is Sienna getting on this year?". Hone in on your specific concerns eg "Is Sienna participating in class discussions?".
If your child is uncooperative at home, refusing to do their homework, or struggling to keep on top of things because of their extra-curricular commitments, talk to the teacher about it. They may have some suggestions and strategies you could put in place or be flexible in the way they structure your child's work.
Inform the teacher of relevant news
If there are issues at home affecting your child emotionally - eg stress, a new sibling, bereavement, divorce - it is useful for the teacher to be aware of them so that they can better understand any fluctuations in your child's behaviour and performance at school. However, resist using up your interview time offloading your own problems.
Ask what you can do to help at home
The teacher should be able to give you specific pointers as to how you can support your child's learning journey outside the classroom.
Agree a plan of action and follow up
Find out what your teacher expects of your child over the next term/year, how this is to be achieved and how it will be measured. Establish what part you will play and agree a follow-up date with the teacher to review progress.
Clarify communication streams
How would the teacher like you to contact them should you wish to follow up on any of the issues raised? And how should they get in touch with you?
Speak to your child after the interview
Keep your child informed. Let them know what you have discussed with their teacher and any strategies you have agreed on. Listen to their feedback.
Schedule a longer appointment, if necessary
Don't expect to cover everything in your parent teacher meeting. If you need more time for a detailed discussion, or want your child in on the conversation, organise another meeting at a convenient date and time.