The first parent-teacher conference is important. It allows parents to understand the logistics of the class and gives them a better look at the person who will spend a year with their child. To make the most of it, you must prepare a little. Here are a few things to keep in mind until then.
The first day
The first day of school is always rich in emotions, especially if it is the first day at a new school or the beginning of the last year. We frantically look for our child’s group, we look at the classmates, we try to guess the personality and skills of the new teacher in a glance (because it's rude to stare!) and we wonder if we haven’t forgotten anything. Then our child nervously enters the classroom and we leave the school empty-handed and filled with questions.
That’s when you should take notes. Don’t wait for your child to come back with stories that will trigger unjustified fear. Instead, write down the questions that come to mind from the start, about everything that affects the course of the day, the rules of the classroom, the educational content and the material that will be covered throughout the year.
Between the first day of class and your meeting with the teacher, your child will tell you many stories. Someone lost something important, another was bullied, seatmates were changed because there was too much gossiping or someone got pushed in the playground. These bits of information are not really helpful in your understanding of what happens between the morning and afternoon bells. If some of these stories worry or intrigue you, don’t hesitate to write them down if you want to ask questions during the meeting. That’s the only way you can truly understand the situation and avoid letting your imagination make matters worst.
By helping your child with homework you will see what they are learning. Pretty soon you'll know what they find difficult and what they quickly get the hang of. Again, feel free to take notes in order to seek advice from their teacher during the meeting. Their teacher can suggest readings or exercises that will help improve their weaknesses and use their strengths.
The meeting: a great opportunity!
The big day has finally arrived and you see your child's desk. The youngest children will probably work very hard to make their desks presentable and some of them will write a short letter to make you feel welcome in this place that you visit for the first time. You will see some of their work displayed on the walls, evidence of what they learn, discipline tables and other learning tools. You will also see where your child sits all day and what classmates surround him. It is a privilege to see that environment and it will help you understand when your child tells you about their day.
It is also a great opportunity to meet their teacher, to see how you can help your child in any way and to finally become part of the place where your child spends most of their time during the school year. The teacher will certainly give you his or her perspective on your child and this is a good moment to talk about your child's individual needs and concerns, if any.
My child did what?
The teacher might also talk about some of your child’s academic or interpersonal weaknesses. Don’t panic and remember that school is a place of learning. It is normal for your child to find it harder in some areas but in time, they will learn many different subjects and acquire the basics of living in a society.
Remember that the teacher doesn’t tell you this because he or she dislikes your children but rather to make you an ally. Listen to what they have to say and ask about ways you could improve learning at home. Children learn much faster when parents and teachers work hand in hand, and since it is your educational partner that you are meeting, don’t forget to smile!