How to make the most of your child’s parent-teacher conference

Don’t overlook this opportunity to help your child finish the semester strong.

Photo by contrastwerkstatt, Adobe Stock

Now that the first few months of the new school year have come to a close, it’s just about time to sit down with your child’s teacher for a face-to-face conference discussing your child’s academic and social standing.

Casey Reif
Photo by Kierra Chinn

Specific topics may include how your child is adjusting, their classroom behavior, grades and strengths and weaknesses. Thoroughly covering each of those topics in just 15 minutes can be challenging, which is why we sat down with Casey Reif, a fifth-grade teacher for Loudoun County Public Schools, to get her opinion on what parents need to know to capitalize on their conference time.

Come prepared.

Ahead of time, get your child’s insight into what’s been going on in the classroom. “Know the things we have done in class, the topics we are working on, who their friends are, who they hang out with, who they don’t like, if they like the classroom, what they don’t like about the classroom,” says Reif. Having background knowledge about the classroom specifics will help you ask the right questions and better understand the topics that the teacher will bring up.

Have an idea of how your child scores socially.

Reif understands that academics are rightfully emphasized in education, but she also stresses the importance of a social component. “It’s just as important that they can follow classroom procedures as they can perform on a test,” says Reif. Make sure the conference is equal parts academic and social. Some things to think about include:

  • Does my child have friends?
  • Does my child get along with other kids?
  • Are they kind to other students?
  • Can they work well in a group?
  • How do they contribute to a group? Do they goof around during group work?

Get your child involved.

Opening the dialogue to include parent, teacher and student is becoming increasingly common. “Student-led conferences are something they are pushing this year,” says Reif. Inviting your older child to the conference can force them [to] hold themselves accountable. For the littler ones, it will suffice to simply have them reflect on their time in school. If the teacher does not have a reflection sheet for your child to fill out, you can be the one communicating how your child is feeling. Children should consider and be able to elaborate on these prompts.

  • I do my homework.
  • I pay attention.
  • I listen to directions.
  • I am nice to other kids.
  • I am proud of …
  • I want to keep working on …

Make sure to find out where the teacher agrees and disagrees with your child’s self-assessment.

Be honest about homework.

Reif states that her homework is for “a specific reason—to make you a better reader, to make you a better math student, to make your math facts faster.”

Hold your child accountable for their work, and make sure that you are honest with their teacher about what they accomplish at home. The teacher should be able to give you resources if extra assistance is needed.

The following is a list of conference dates for Northern Virginia’s county public schools, though specific dates vary on a school-to-school basis:

Alexandria: Nov. 15-17

Arlington: Oct. 26-27

Fairfax: Nov. 6-7

Fauquier: Nov. 6

Fredericksburg: Nov. 16-28

Loudoun: Nov. 6-7

Prince William: Nov. 7