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As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!

Make Good Use of Conferences

One of the best way parents can help their children in

school is to make good use of the opportunity provided to them in

parent-teacher conferences. It works even better if they are

made into parent-teacher-student conferences.


I believe that students should be involved in all such

meetings. It is the students learning that is under discussion,

and it is up to the students to decide whether they are going to

learn or not. Teachers can teach, and parents can support, but

if the students decide not to learn, for whatever reason, there

is not much anybody can do about it. Learning is not a passive

activity. Students must atttack the material and make it their



When the student is present in the conference, not only does

he or she get all of the information first hand, but it gives the

adults an opportunity to experience how each one responds to the

student. It also eliminates the middle man. When the student is

not involved in the conference, the teacher reports to the

parents how the student feels, which may or may not be accurate

and the parents report to the student what the teacher said,

which also may or may not be correct. I have been involved in

very successful conferences where first grade students were

present. It is never too early for students to take charge of

their own learning.


In all conferences, there should be an agreed upon purpose

and time for the conference. If the parents want another person

such as the remedial reading teacher at the conference, the

request should be made prior to the conference. If the teacher

is going to have another person at the conference, the parents

should be aware of this ahead of time. All benefit if everybody

is prepared in advance, and unexpected agenda items work against



If the stated purpose of the conference is to discuss the

student’s academic program and progress, the teacher should be

prepared with samples of the student’s work and a summary of the

student’s progress. The summary should include not only areas of

concern but also areas of strength. Above all, it should be

encouraging, not discouraging.


All adults at the conference should protect the student’s

self-esteem and nobody should be permitted to verbally attack the

student whether he or she is present or not.


The purpose of conferences if for all groups to communicate

effectively with each other for the good of the student. It

sometimes helps if the parents come to the conference with some

questions jotted down to keep the conference directed to its

intended task. Conferences should be free of educational jargon.

If parents do not understand what is being said, they should feel

free to interrupt and ask for clarification.


At the end of the conference, each person should summarize

what he or she understands was said and what conclusions were

reached. If the parties involved consistently have difficulty

understanding each other, it sometimes helps to have an extra

person at the conference to facilitate communication. This is

especially important if there is a language barrier.


All participants have an obligation to be constructive and

positive in their approach. At the end of the conference,

everyone should feel encouraged. If there were problem areas,

positive solutions should have been recommended and a plan of

action agreed upon. Follow up conferences may be scheduled

especially if a topic came up which was different from the one

agreed upon originally.


As a courtesy, remember that most teachers work on a tight

schedule, and conferences which go overtime use up the time of

other waiting parents. Take the opportunity to model cooperative

behavior by concluding conferences on schedule.



Posted in Behavior, Educational Reform, From Experience, Getting the Most For Your Child, Parenting, Teachers | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

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