Tips for Parent Teacher Meetings
The definition of parent teacher meetings: (source Wikipedia) A parent-teacher conference, parent-teacher interview, parent-teacher night or parents' evening, is a short meeting or conference between the parents and teachers of students to discuss a child's progress at school and find solutions to academic or behavioural problems if any.
There is an issue with the definition itself. A PTM should be about parents and teachers coming together to ensure that the emotional, physical, and cognitive needs of a child are met. Very often parents approach the meeting in a state of anxiety ready to think that they themselves are to blame if the teachers don’t all have glowing things to say about their child. This ends up making a PTM stressful for parents as well as their kids who anxiously wait for their parents to come home. This is all good for parents with children who are academically engaged and successful in all their subjects as well as behaviourally the perfect child, but if this were true of all our kids what a boring, mechanical and robotic world we would all live in!
We all know that children who experience ‘secure attachment’ grow into emotionally, physically and cognitively healthy adults. For a child to feel this and gain in self esteem it means that you accept and embrace your child and not that you will only accept and embrace your child if he/ she ‘achieves’. A PTM should be about both teacher and parent identifying a child’s needs and working on how best to meet these needs. The fact is that this is rarely the case in India where the number of children per teacher is often too many for the teacher to handle. Teachers in India are often underpaid and overworked so when you sit in front of a teacher please keep this in mind. So if a teacher says, “Your child distracts everyone in class and does not do any work”, she could actually mean, “Your child has so much energy that he has trouble concentrating on his work. Let’s work toward channelizing his energy constructively”. Or, Your child doesn't talk to anyone and sits quietly in a corner all day”, is probably meant to mean, “Your child is very comfortable in her own space and likes to be left alone. We could probably try to involve her in some group games at school and plan play dates at home.” In a case where the teacher says the former you could possibly rephrase it to the latter and ask what could be done constructively at home by you and at school by the teacher to better the emotional, physical and cognitive outcomes for your child.
Most PTMs focus on the academic and behavioural challenges of your child. What you as a parent can do is to ask questions that guide the discussion path in a way that is constructive and looks to serve your child’s highest potential.
What is a goal you would like to see my child achieve? (This question can serve as a springboard for you and the teacher to develop a plan to work together to help a child set and reach a specific outcome. Even well- behaved and high-achieving children may benefit from setting goals in areas that need improvement or in which they might excel.)
Does my child respond better at certain times of the day?
What does my child do that surprises you?
What is my child reluctant to do? (This question may reveal to you your child's interests and areas of challenge. Most of us like to participate in things that make us feel good and we have some assurance of achieving in and dislike what we find challenging and don’t perform well at. It will also give an insight about your child's academic and social preferences.)
How well does my child get along with others? / Who are my child's friends and how does she interact with other children? / Is my child making friends in class?
Does her choice of friends interfere with her ability to focus on academic work?
Have you noticed any sudden changes in the way my child acts? For example, have you noticed any squinting, tiredness or moodiness that might be a sign of physical or other problems?
Is he self-directed in choosing activities during free time or does he need your help?
Does he prefer working alone or with other children?
Is he a leader or follower or a combination of both?
Here are a few tips parents can follow when going for a parent teacher meeting:
Before the meeting:
1. Speak to you child about school
2. Check with them whether they are enjoying school
3. Make a list of things you would like to talk about with the teacher
4. Check with your child if there is anything specific they would like the parent to discuss with the teacher.
Last words of advice from a teacher and a mother.
1- Your child’s report card is not your report card.
2- The knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary for success in today’s world are different from what was required when you went to school. Schools don’t assess these ‘new age’ requirements.
3- Children possess different kinds of minds and understand, learn, remember and perform in different ways that our current standardised testing has not kept up with.
4- If you approach a PTM in a way that allows a child to feel compared to others and has a child feel academically and/ or behaviourally ‘stamped’ or ‘judged’ your child many develop a fixed mindset rather that a growth mindset. A growth mindset is essential for your child to reach his potential.
5- Success in life does not necessarily originate with academic success.
6- Rebellious unruly kids who defy authority often end up more successful and in leadership positions over their compliant obedient peers!