I’ve just finished parent-teacher meetings for my high school kids. Or, as I prefer to call it, speed dating on steroids!
For two afternoons this week, I spent two hours at my kids’ school, talking to their teachers in quick fire 10 minute interviews. I met with Matilda’s year 7 teachers on Tuesday and followed up with Gilbert’s year 8 teachers on Wednesday. To say I was exhausted afterwards would be a complete understatement!
Parent-teacher interviews, meetings or conferences can be intimidating at the best of times, especially when your child gets to high school and you’re suddenly dealing with multiple teachers. When your child has additional needs, the complexity of these interactions ratchets up to 100, as you do your best to pack in as much information as you can in that short 10 minute window.
Of course, you can always request a longer meeting for another time and this may be appropriate if you have multiple issues to discuss. However, the traditional parent-teacher interview is always a good opportunity to meet your child’s teachers, introduce yourself, discuss their progress and discover what each teacher has put in place to meet your child’s needs.
Now, to make the most of each 10 minute window, it’s important to plan and do some preparation beforehand. Here are 5 strategies you can use to successfully tackle your next parent-teacher interview.
5 Strategies for Tackling Parent-Teacher Meetings
Review relevant reports & plans
It’s important to take the time to review current school reports for your child, so you’re across the points that may be raised in the meeting. I print and take along their latest school report, IEP, list of adjustments and emergency care plans. Reviewing the reports prior to the meeting guides me on what I’d like to discuss. It gives me a point of reference so I can check in with the teacher to see whether the stated adjustments are being put in place and are making a positive impact on my child and their learning. Taking the reports along also shows the teacher you are an engaged and interested parent, who is serious about working with them to better help your child. I find this is a good strategy for making the 10 minute window really count.
Have your questions ready
There’s nothing worse than rocking up to a parent-teacher interview and having it begin with the teacher asking YOU what concerns you have. It’s even worse if you can only respond with awkward silence. This is your chance to advocate for your child so don’t let it go to waste. Have some questions ready before you go along to the interview to give you focus and direction for the conversation. Some starter questions might include:
- How much aide time is my child receiving?
- What are their strengths in the classroom?
- What adjustments seem to be working best?
- How can I help them learn at home?
- Can we introduce/review/increase/decrease homework?
- Who are they interacting with in the classroom and playground?
- What structured activities can they participate in during break time?
- Are there times in the day where their behaviour seems better or worse?
Preparing questions beforehand gives the meeting more purpose, prevents you forgetting important points and gives you the chance to truly advocate for your child’s needs.
Develop solutions to problems
It’s very easy to identify problems – for many special needs parents, it’s our superpower! However, it’s even more important to be able to develop solutions, so you find a way to resolve problems before they become too big. Instead of heading to a parent-teacher meeting focused on specific problems, flip things around and think about how they could be resolved. You may have an out of the box idea that the teacher has not yet thought about. You might have an idea of how to deal with your child’s sensory overload before it leads to meltdown. You might be able to suggest a structured activity aligned to your child’s special interest for break times. Don’t be afraid to suggest potential solutions to problems – it’s a positive and proactive approach to the parent-teacher partnership.
Be prepared to listen and learn
Given all the advice up to this point, you might be thinking we should be heading along to the parent-teacher meeting with a gung-ho, take no prisoner attitude. However, the key to a successful partnership is to listen and learn from the other party too. Be prepared to take on board what the teacher tells you about your child. Resist the tendency to become defensive and try to be open to what they share with you. It can be difficult to sit quietly and actually listen, but this is a really important strategy when it comes to successful parent-teacher meetings. Be respectful, demonstrate you are willing to listen and prove that you are ready to work with the teacher in a true partnership.
Focus on the positives
Even if some tough conversations have been had, make sure you leave the meeting on a positive note. This might mean thanking the teacher for their efforts, reminding them of your child’s strengths or agreeing on a way forward to better support your child. A positive end to the meeting means that both parties leave the discussion on good terms and helps further the relationship. Reminding the teacher of your child’s positives (instead of focusing on their challenges) also helps keep their focus on what your child can do, rather than on what they can’t. If appropriate, don’t forget to follow up and follow through on what was agreed via email, to confirm the next action and maintain goodwill.
How do you tackle parent-teacher meetings?
This post is part of our new series “5 Things Special Needs Parents Should Know”. If you’d like to submit a guest post, or if you have a topic you’d like covered as part of this weekly series, send your idea to email@example.com
Feature Photo by sean Kong on Unsplash
Would you like more support as a special needs parent?
Subscribe to Positive Special Needs Parenting to receive updates, advice and support from someone who's been there (and is still very much there!)
It sounds a lot like specialist appointments really – you have to have all the reports and questions at the ready and don’t be afraid to take notes so you can remember it all later.
I think that is a big ask doing it with the usual 5 minutes here and there….is there an option for a longer and more effective series of meetings? I guess there might be but I also understand with the number of teachers interacting with your children it would take a day for each.
You do a fantastic job helping others using your experience and expertise. I hope the HS seeks more of your views, particularly for the staff.
Thanks for linking up for #lifethisweek. Next week’s optional prompt for 36/52 is Taking Stock. Denyse