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9 Proactive Steps to Prepare for a Parent-Teacher Conferences

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Picture of Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge

Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge

Yikes! It’s that dreaded parent-teacher conference. For those of us with a neurodivergent or special needs child, attending parent-teacher conferences is akin to a root canal. We can feel overwhelmed by our worries about how our child is doing academically and socially. 

While the internet is brimming with parent-teacher conference checklists that can feel overwhelming, a few simple steps can help lower your stress levels while keeping the meeting from being combative.  

9 Tips for Better Parent-Teacher Conferences

9 Tips for Better Parent-Teacher Conferences

Parent-teacher conferences are valuable opportunities for educators and parents to collaborate in supporting student success. These meetings provide a platform to discuss academic progress, address concerns, and establish child development goals. Here are some tips to help teachers conduct fruitful parent-teacher conferences and foster a positive and productive partnership between home and school:

 1. Create A Parent Teacher Meeting Agenda and Prepare Before the School Meeting

Creating an agenda for parent-teacher conferences, IEP or 504 meetings helps you control the direction of the school meeting. Organize your thoughts, and write down what you are seeing and hearing. Be specific. How are you managing your child's behavior problems? 

Sometimes, children “let their hair down” at home and keep it behaviorally together at school, so a teacher may not be aware of the struggles at home. On the flip side, children with learning or attentional issues may display behaviors at school that they don’t show at home due to stress around learning or social interactions. If behaviors are present, inquire if your child is the only one displaying the behavior.

With learning issues, find out where they are compared to the other students in the class or instructional group. So, are they the top reader or at the bottom? And is your child at this level with support? If you are concerned about reading, narrow it down to decoding, blending words, accuracy, comprehension, etc. These questions can help determine a developmental lag or a deficiency.

One research by Sheridan and Kratochwill (1992), originally published in the Journal of School Psychology, shows how important it is for parents to be involved in their child's education, and how psychologists work with parents to help their kids succeed in school. 

It introduces the behavioral consultation method, where parents and teachers work together to solve problems. This approach helps identify issues, create consistent plans, and ensure improvements happen in both home and school. It's about building better communication between parents and teachers to help students do their best.

School Meeting Parent Checklist

2. Talk to Your Child

After organizing your concerns, talk to your child. If you haven’t started the dialogue with your child about their learning, behavioral, or attentional issues, now is the time to do so. How do they feel about school? Do they complain? If so, what do their complaints center on? Social interactions, reading, math, writing, the teacher, boredom, fatigue, etc. 

Parents’ meeting points should consider the child’s feelings so the family can work with the teacher. Think about what you can do at home to mitigate those complaints, but also help your child understand that learning can sometimes be complex for everyone. Kids today don’t always like the slowed, non-digital pace of the classroom. Sharing your child’s thoughts with the teacher can help find ways to support the child and develop a communication partnership.

3. Listen

Come to parent-teacher conferences ready to listen. Your teacher is with your child often, and many teachers want to help your child. Listen to what they are seeing. If they present concerns, listen to what they are and what they are doing to support your child. If all you do is prepare a speech for these parent conferences, you won’t create an environment of mutual support for your child. 

Write down the observations of your child’s teacher and keep an open mind. Sometimes, it is hard to hear that your child is having difficulty, especially when they are young. However, when you hear and validate the concerns, you can take the following steps to make a difference for your child.

We know that early intervention with everything from anxiety, ADHD, Dyslexia, OCD, Autism, or other mental and developmental issues can change the trajectory of your child's life. You simply can’t intervene early enough with emotional or learning problems.

 4. Examine the Data and Plot it Out

Schools do a lot of testing, so there is a lot of data about how your child is learning in multiple areas. From standardized tests to curriculum-based assessments, we are conducting many measurements. 

It is important for parents to gather all the data and plot it out on a graph if possible. You want to look at if their academics or behavior is improving or not. This data is critical to get a better understanding of how the interventions are working or not. 

One study used frequency to measure academic behavior samples to compare these two methods for identifying students at risk for learning problems. Tests were given to 144 kindergartens and 142 first-grade children. Both methods effectively identified high-risk students but differed significantly in time, effort, and cost. Choosing suitable methods may be crucial for school districts with limited resources (Joyce & Wolking, 1987).

These measurements typically show how much your child absorbs from the district’s curriculum.  If your child has already been “red flagged” and receives some support, there will be more data. Looking at this intervention-based data can make your parent-teacher more meaningful and may lead to a discussion about what additional supports can be available.  

Additionally, a higher level of formal testing has been conducted that can provide some clues as to why your child is struggling. Schools now have tiers of intervention with goals attached to them. These goals measure the efficacy of the intervention and give us data about whether it is working. 

5. Ask What Supports are Available

Ok, so now you know your child is having a hard time, the next question should be, “What can we do to help him?” Knowing the right questions for these parent-teacher conferences can help create a more appropriate support level for your child.  

Schools have a lot of support they can offer, but these are unique to each building. Identify the specific need at your meeting and ask what supports or programs can be implemented. Is there a particular reading program, social skills group, or morning sensory program? What are the educational, social, and emotional supports your school offers?  

Inquire about how the teacher thinks, how your child will respond to support, and why they feel that way. Many parents are often surprised at how much can be done for a regular education student or even a student with special needs. Opening the discussion with your teacher at the parent-teacher conference is essential.

The importance of parent-teacher conferences lies in setting aside a specific amount of time to focus on your child’s needs. Using this time to create a productive conversation may prove invaluable to your child’s success at school.

7 Ways to Prepare for a Parent-Teacher Meeting

6. Make a Plan

Although it might feel like you’re back in school, taking parent-teacher conference notes can help you define the issues and make a plan with school staff to support those challenges. Once you set up the plan, get the details and have the school write it. Ideally, the plan should define the area of need and make measurable goals. 

You also want to ensure the plan includes who will work with your child and how often they meet. You will feel better knowing a well-defined plan is in place, and your child is more likely to progress.

7. Follow-up

Set a follow-up date to meet and review the plan and your child’s response to that plan. This is very important. Creating a plan sets objectives, but you must ensure the school follows through on its promises. 

With the increased demands on teachers today, they may only sometimes be able to provide what is agreed upon, and setting a follow-up meeting helps to track that. Regarding the response to the intervention, this meeting is the time to discuss how effective the intervention was and whether or not additional supports need to be implemented.

8. Maintain Professionalism

It's essential to uphold a professional demeanor during the conference, treating all discussions with respect and confidentiality. Avoid making personal judgments or assumptions, and focus on constructive dialogue to find solutions and support your child’s growth. Remember to listen attentively to parents' concerns and perspectives. Demonstrate empathy and understanding while maintaining boundaries and professionalism.

9. Seek Regular Feedback

Parent-teacher conferences are collaborative endeavors, and input from parents can provide valuable insights into improving the conference process and enhancing communication between home and school. Share your thoughts, suggestions, and concerns openly. Ensure that your voice is heard and valued. Actively seek feedback so educators can continuously refine their approach to conferences, better meet your child's needs, and strengthen the partnership in supporting their education. 

When Should I Seek Help About My Child’s Learning Issues? 

If your child is getting support and needs to progress or presents with the same issue(s) from year to year or for a significant length, it is time for professional assistance. While many advantages of parent-teacher meetings exist, they can’t solve every problem.  

If an issue is coming up year after year or occurring long enough to impact them significantly, then your child needs help. Do you seek assistance from a private psychologist, ask the school to work with your child more intensively or differently, or have them evaluate your child? 

That is a personal question only you can answer, but selecting your provider ensures that someone skilled and well-suited to your child’s needs will provide an objective opinion. Moreover, not all issues can be addressed by schools. 

Starting with a QEEG Brain Map from an expert level professional can help you get to the bottom of your child’s issues.

What are the important questions to ask regarding the status report that assesses student's strengths?

When reviewing a status report assessing a student's strengths, some critical questions to ask include: What subjects or areas does my child consistently excel in? Does the teacher note any specific skills or talents? How does my child's performance compare to their previous assessments? 

What should the student's parents and teacher talk about in the next conference?  

In the next parent-teacher conference, parents and the teacher should discuss

academic progress, social and emotional development, goals and strategies, support at home, and extracurricular activities and interests. They should also decide on any concerns for observation from the last conference.

How should you react if your child's teachers deliver bad news during a parent-teacher conference? 

If a teacher delivers bad news during a parent-teacher conference, remaining calm and composed is essential. Take a deep breath, listen attentively, ask for specific details about the issues, and work collaboratively with the teacher to develop a plan of action to support your child's education and behavioral needs.

How can you help your child succeed in the next school year? 

You can help your child succeed in the next school year by establishing a consistent study routine, providing a quiet and organized study space at home, offering support and encouragement, communicating regularly with teachers, and actively engaging in your child's education by attending school events and monitoring their progress.

How do you assess your child's strengths through a progress report?

You can assess your child's strengths through a progress report by looking for consistently high performance in certain subjects or areas, positive comments from teachers about their skills or abilities, and any extracurricular achievements or involvement noted in the report. Additionally, pay attention to areas where your child shows enthusiasm or excels beyond expectations.

Is it a good thing if a child compares his test scores with other children? 

Comparing test scores with other children can sometimes be a natural behavior, but it's not necessarily good. It can lead to unhealthy competition, low self-esteem, or feelings of inadequacy. Encouraging your child to focus on their progress and improvement rather than comparing themselves to others is more beneficial for their long-term growth and development.

To what extent should a child aim for higher grades on their report cards? 

A child should aim for continuous improvement and mastery of the material rather than solely focusing on achieving higher grades. While striving for good grades can be motivating, it's important to emphasize the value of learning, understanding concepts, and personal growth. Encouraging a balanced approach that considers effort, comprehension, and overall development fosters a healthier attitude toward education.

Can monitoring students’ learning help address behavior problems in children facing school challenges?

Monitoring students' learning can help address behavior problems in children facing school challenges. By closely observing their academic progress and understanding their strengths and weaknesses, educators and parents can identify underlying issues contributing to behavioral difficulties.

Why is it important to follow your own schedule during meeting times?

Following your own schedule during meeting times is essential because it helps ensure that all agenda items are addressed efficiently and effectively. It keeps the discussion focused and prevents unnecessary tangents or distractions, allowing participants to maximize the allocated time. Additionally, adhering to the schedule demonstrates respect for everyone's time and commitments.

Is video conferencing a good opportunity to discuss student work with educators?

Yes, video conferencing can be a valuable opportunity when talking about student work with educators, especially if in-person meetings are not feasible. Video conferencing provides a convenient and effective way for parents and educators to collaborate, share feedback, and address student progress and academic performance concerns.

How can other parents help provide more support to students?

Other parents can support students by participating in parent-teacher associations or school committees to contribute ideas and resources for enhancing the educational experience, organizing study groups or tutoring sessions to help students struggling with specific subjects or assignments, and creating a supportive community where parents can share tips, resources, and experiences to help each other navigate challenges and support their children's learning.

Citations

Joyce, B. G., & Wolking, W. D. (1987). Standardized Tests and Timed Curriculum-Based Assessments: A Comparison of Two Methods for Screening High-Risk Students. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 5(3), 185–193. https://doi.org/10.1177/073428298700500301

Sheridan, S. M., & Kratochwill, T. R. (1992). Behavioral parent-teacher consultation: Conceptual and research considerations. Journal of School Psychology, 30(2), 117–139. https://doi.org/10.1016/0022-4405(92)90025-z

Dr. Roseann is a mental health expert in Neurodivergence who is frequently in the media:

  • CBS (Video) Student Learning Resources Quarantine 
  • CT FOX61 (Video)  Homeschooling Tips During Quarantine
  • Parents 5 Creative Ways Parents Are Finding Child Care During the Pandemic

 

Always remember… “Calm Brain, Happy Family™”

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to give health advice and it is recommended to consult with a physician before beginning any new wellness regime. *The effectiveness of diagnosis and treatment vary by patient and condition. Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, LLC does not guarantee certain results.

Are you looking for SOLUTIONS for your struggling child or teen? 

Dr. Roseann and her team are all about science-backed solutions, so you are in the right place! 

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Dr. Roseann is a Children’s Mental Health Expert and Licensed Therapist who has been featured in/on hundreds of media outlets including The Mel Robbins Show, CBS, NBC, PIX11 NYC, Today, FORBES, CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Business Insider, Women’s Day, Healthline, CNET, Parade Magazine and PARENTS. FORBES called her, “A thought leader in children’s mental health.

Dr. Roseann - Brain Behavior Reset Parent Toolkit

She coined the terms, “Re-entry panic syndrome” and “eco-anxiety” and is a frequent contributor to media on mental health. 

Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge has three decades of experience in working with children, teens and their families with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, concussion, dyslexia and learning disability, anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), depression and mood disorder, Lyme Disease, and PANS/PANDAS using science-backed natural mental health solutions such as supplements, magnesium, nutrition, QEEG Brain maps, neurofeedback, PEMF, psychotherapy and other non-medication approaches. 

She is the author of three bestselling books, It’s Gonna Be OK!: Proven Ways to Improve Your Child's Mental Health, The Teletherapy Toolkit, and Brain Under Attack. Dr. Roseann is known for offering a message of hope through science-endorsed methods that promote a calm brain. 

Her trademarked BrainBehaviorResetⓇ Program and It’s Gonna be OK!Ⓡ Podcast has been a cornerstone for thousands of parents facing mental health, behavioral or neurodevelopmental challenges.

She is the founder and director of The Global Institute of Children’s Mental Health, Neurotastic™Brain Formulas and Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, LLC. Dr. Roseann is a Board Certified Neurofeedback (BCN) Practitioner, a Board Member of the Northeast Region Biofeedback Society (NRBS), Certified Integrative Mental Health Professional (CIMHP) and an Amen Clinic Certified Brain Health Coach.  She is also a member of The International Lyme Disease and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), The American Psychological Association (APA), Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), International OCD Foundation (IOCDF).

© Roseann-Capanna-Hodge, LLC 2024

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to give health advice and it is recommended to consult with a physician before beginning any new wellness regime. *The effectiveness of diagnosis and treatment vary by patient and condition. Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, LLC does not guarantee certain results.

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