So your child’s doing just fine at school: No problems with grades or homework, seems happy with their friends, no complaints from any of the teaching staff. Do you really need to attend that parent teacher meeting?
Or maybe your child hates school, is always in trouble and you just can’t face seeing their teacher to hear all about it … Again!
And who has time for this anyway? Busy parents, busy lives – the amount of diary jiggling and organisation required to make that 10-minute chat happen just doesn’t seem worth it, right?
Here are seven reasons why you should prioritise that appointment:
It can help you see the bigger picture
The parent teacher interview gives parents a better overview of their child’s development at school – academically, socially, emotionally and physically. It helps them understand how their child is progressing, whether they are on target, what their strengths and weaknesses are and where they are heading. If you ever find yourself wondering, ‘Is my child normal?’, ‘How much homework should they be doing?’, ‘Do they mix well with other kids?’ or ‘Why do they never eat their packed lunch on Thursdays?’, this is your chance to get some answers.
It helps the teacher understand your child
Teachers can get a better handle on your child’s personality and disposition by listening to what you have to say about them: What does your child feel strongly about? What do they enjoy doing in their free time? What makes them laugh? What stresses them out? Who do they hang out with? This can really help teachers connect the dots and understand what motivates your child and why they might struggle in certain areas, eg collaborative work or organisation skills.
If something difficult is going on at home that may be affecting your child’s performance or happiness at school (e.g. birth of a new sibling, separation, mental illness), this is a good time to let the teacher know.
It gives the parents a window into the classroom
My children often behave differently at school. One is quieter and more reserved in class while the other is a chatty clown yet calm and conscientious at home. I would never know this had I not spoken to their teachers.
Your child’s teacher should be able to provide valuable feedback on how your child interacts with others, their approach to work, attitude and happiness at school. This can be quite an eye-opener!
It helps nip problems in the bud
If the teacher has concerns about your child’s learning, behaviour or emotional wellbeing, they can discuss suitable interventions and solutions with you, before things escalate.
You can get help, support and advice
Worried that your child is falling behind in class or not reaching their potential? Your child's teacher is best placed to recognise if your child needs extra learning support or extending and pushing further. An interview allows teachers to discuss this with parents and recommend resources and a plan of action. They will have information about tutoring, extension programs, student wellbeing programs and extra-curricular activities to share, as well as a wealth of professional experience to draw from.
It gives the teacher the opportunity to praise and highlight strengths
Some parents wrongly assume that the purpose of the parent teacher conference is to identify all the things their child is doing wrong. While the meeting does allow a teacher to flag areas of concern, it can also be a platform for appreciation. The teacher will want to tell you about your child’s accomplishments and qualities – e.g. their academic wins, resilience, helpfulness, sense of humour or skill at devising imaginative games at playtime. Don't miss the opportunity to discover all the amazing things your child is doing at school.
It builds a partnership and gives you an ally
Your child's teacher wants to work with you to help your child succeed. A face-to-face discussion can help you both agree on shared goals and strategies to benefit your child. According to the Australian Government Department of Education and Training,
"Research has shown that when schools and families work together, children do better, stay in school longer, are more engaged with their school work, go to school more regularly, behave better, and have better social skills."
Parent teacher interviews can be enlightening, entertaining, therapeutic and encouraging. (I have had teachers pray for my child, pass me a box of tissues at an emotional moment, chuckle at my child's misadventures and plot with me over ways to motivate my children.) The parent teacher interview may be brief but it is never a waste of time.
If you are unable to make your allocated parent teacher meeting, or if 10-15 minutes is simply not long enough, contact your child's teacher to arrange an appointment at another time.