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Getting the most out of parent-teacher conferences

By Barrington Fulton Jr., Head of Middle School; and Cara Hames, Interim Head of Lower School

Parent/Guardian-teacher conferences — especially at the beginning of the year — are opportunities for parents/guardians to connect with their child’s teachers about the  student’s transition into their current grade and to receive feedback about the curricular expectations. 

Whether the conference is in-person or over Zoom, there is limited time allotted for each conference. As long-time educators who have been through the conference process for many years, we have collected recommendations for parents/guardians to make the best use of the time allotted: 

  1. Start the conference right: make every effort to be there on time and plan to meet for 25–30 minutes.  If you find you need more time for the discussion, ask the teachers to schedule a follow-up appointment.

  2. Ask yourself some questions in advance: What are my child’s strengths? Is there anything my child needs help with? Don’t hesitate to tell the teacher about any special concerns you might have.  

  3. Be ready to really listen. Teachers come to know your child best as a student, which can differ from how you see your child at home. You might hear about skills or characteristics you never knew your child had. If, however, the teacher tells you something that concerns you, or if there are terms you don’t understand, be sure to ask for more information.

  4. Be open to collaboration. If some action needs to be taken to help your child, you and the teacher will figure out what needs to be done together. Offer suggestions and ask what you can do at home.

  5. Talk with your child’s teacher with the understanding that you are both members of the same team with one goal in mind: the best possible school experience for your child.

Student-led Conferences

Student-led conferences can be a powerful tool for student growth and learning. At Foote, students in fourth and fifth grade, and all Middle School students participate in the conferences. Structured this way, these conferences afford the students an opportunity to reflect on their learning, set new goals, and develop autonomy and communication skills. 

For fourth- and fifth-grade students, these first opportunities to lead a conference are moments to be celebrated. Students are expected to share their thoughts about their learning, progress, and challenges. These conferences are great moments for students to voice their opinions on their work so far, and this time offers students the opportunity to share what they have learned about the ways they feel successful as learners. 

As a parent or guardian, your job is to support your child in taking the lead in conducting the conference. Please listen intently, ask follow up questions, and celebrate your child’s learning. 

For students in Foote’s Middle School, these conferences are great moments for students to voice their opinions on their work so far, and this time offers students the opportunity to share what they need for success and discuss their “areas of strength” and “areas to stretch.”  

As a parent or guardian, your job is to support your child in taking the lead in conducting the conference. We recommend the following tips for student-led conferences:

  • Listen intently

  • Ask follow-up questions: 

    • What do you enjoy most about that subject?

    • What has been particularly challenging?

    • How can I support you?

  • Focus on the learning and NOT the grades:

    • What about that subject, project, assignment is or has been tricky?

    • What did you learn in that subject, or on that project or assignment?

    • Do you think you've gotten better at a specific skill?  

    • What do you feel more confident about?

    • Is there anything that is particularly challenging?

    • Please do not ask “Why didn’t you get an A?”

  • Celebrate and support your child’s learning:

    • I’m so proud of you…

    • Let me help you achieve your goals. How can I do that?

Since 1916, The Foote School has provided child-centered education that nurtures creativity, excellence and joy in learning.