Consultation with school headmaster
Consultation with school headmaster

How to survive parent-teacher interview night

Like day follows night, so does a parent teacher conference typically follow your child's report card.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about what parents can do to help their child get the best out of their school report. In this week's column, I want to continue the theme to discuss the parent-teacher conference.

Parent-teacher nights provide an opportunity for both parties to collaborate and ensure students are getting the best out of their education.

They typically follow on from report cards to enable teachers to give a little more detail about the results and comments they have made and give parents the chance to ask more questions or provide more context.

It is a good idea for parents to be a little prepared for these sessions. Maybe re-look at the report card and check if you need anything clarified. Think about whether there is anything you believe the teacher needs to know about your child or your home situation.

While you do want to talk about your child's results, of most interest here should be your child's application to their work. Ask the teacher about how your child is in class and whether they appear to have good motivation.

See if they show appropriate robustness for their age and can generally cope when things don't work out the way they want. Check how much homework your child should be doing at night and see if your child is doing it appropriately.

There’s nothing to be concerned about when it comes to parent teacher night. Picture: iStock
There’s nothing to be concerned about when it comes to parent teacher night. Picture: iStock

My research found that in the face of student laziness, many parents expect teachers to motivate their child to do their homework. Forced motivation can only come from one of two areas - either alter the situation at home to make afternoon TV or computer games dependent on homework completion and/or allow the school to give the child a consequence when they don't do their homework.

These days some teachers fear giving consequences to children because of parent backlash, even though brief detentions are usually effective.

You may need to give the teacher explicit permission to give your idle or rude youngster a lunchtime or afternoon detention.

Let your child know you have done this in a very matter of fact way. In an ideal world, older children should be at the interview, too.

When I was a teacher, I found the interviews much more productive if the student was included in the conversation to enable them to take responsibility for change.

If the child is at the interview, then they should be the centre of the conversation.

I would get my students to prepare answers to the following questions. What are you doing well in this class? What are you not doing so well at? Do you think you are trying your best? What would you like to change? Do you need parent or teacher help to do this?

The best thing to do is have a plan of action. Picture: iStock
The best thing to do is have a plan of action. Picture: iStock

Finally, make sure you are respectful to your child's teacher. Recent research has shown teachers to experience greater job-related stress than any other profession. And before anyone retorts with their holidays or alleged 6.5-hour work days, think about whether you'd like to be in a profession where you have to manage the classroom behaviour, wellbeing and academic growth of 25 kids, in an environment of parent WhatsApp groups which undertake daily examination and sometimes hostile scrutiny of your work.

So, make sure you use the opportunity of meeting your child's teacher to have a measured and respectful conversation. Work with them to help your child rather than blame them for your child's challenges or disappointments or be overly critical of your child.

Just as you can't expect your child to be perfect, neither should you expect their teachers to be.

Here are some other questions to ask:

● Can my child work independently or do they need a lot of attention or reassurance?

● Do they work well with others? Can they lead and can they be led in group work?

● Do you think they show similar levels of maturity as their peers?

● How do they take constructive criticism? Can they accept and apply it, or do they become overly emotional at re-direction?

● What should my involvement in homework be now? I want to ensure I help them enough but not so much I reduce their confidence or capability in completing work independently.