Your parent-teacher interview survival guide

<i></i>
 Photo: Getty Images

How are your parent-teacher interview skills? Some of us parents take it in our stride, while the rest of us over think it a little and need a little refinement to our school meeting tactics.

The interviews, designed as a quick way to open communications between the parents and the teacher, really are a positive part of school life – all us parents have to do is keep our cool and avoid too much bragging and nervous rambling. (I'm guilty on both counts.)

As parent-teacher interviews roll around again, here are a few tips for getting the most out of the meeting.

Get prepared beforehand

Before walking into the meeting, have a think about any concerns you have or points you want to raise. These questions might help to prompt some ideas:

  • Is there something you want the teacher to focus on helping your child with?
  • What is your child particularly pleased with, excelling at or enjoying?
  • Ask your child if there's anything they want you to discuss with their teacher; do they have any concerns or need extra help with something?
  • Write a list of any questions or things you need to talk about, so you don't forget.

Control the nerves

Parent-teacher interviews make me nervous.

I've heard of teachers being nervous about them (particularly when they have some issues to discuss with parents), and of course students can get concerned about what will be reported.

Advertisement

But I'm not sure if parents are usually nervous; after all, we're simply the recipients of information. Except I always feel I have to make a good impression on the teacher, as though this is my own parenting performance review.

Sitting in that small chair across from the teacher never fails to make me feel like a student again, a little uncertain about what's expected from me. But try to control the nerves by remembering this isn't about you; it's simply a short space of time to chat about what's best for your child.

Ask a few questions

For someone who asks questions for a living, I'm not very good at using that skill in parent-teacher interviews. (Don't be like me!)

To keep everyone happy and to look as interested as us parents know we are, it's a good idea to go into each parent-teacher meeting prepared with a couple of questions. If you're stuck, try these:

  • How can I best support my child's learning at home?
  • My child is finding (this subject or aspect of school) challenging; is there some support available?
  • How is my child doing socially at school?
  • Do you think my child needs extra help with anything in particular?
  • What's the best way to communicate with you about any ongoing issues?

Follow up afterwards

The first thing to do after the meeting is to let your child know (if they weren't there) what was said and any plans of action that were discussed.

The parent-teacher communication doesn't finish at the conclusion of the meeting. It's important to keep those communication lines open, so use face-to-face contact, phone calls or emails to keep in touch about your child's progress and ongoing needs.

Share what you want for your child this year

The teacher's question may be something along the lines of "What are your goals for your child?" It comes up in almost every parent-teacher interview, and it really is as difficult to answer as the same question about you in job performance reviews.

Time is of the essence though, so have a think about this ahead of time and give the teacher a quick summary of what you'd like to see your child achieve.

Personally, I simply let my kids' teachers know that I really only have one request: please, just keep my children's curiosity alive.