The parent-teacher conference is a chance to talk about the progress of a child. So why do parents often feel a bit like a kid being sent to the principal’s office as the appointed meeting approaches?

Sometimes there’s a little twinge of guilt—will you be busted for your overenthusiastic help on your child’s latest project? (Perhaps 3-D printing figures for your 2nd grader’s diorama were a tad much!)

Or maybe you’ll be made to feel like you’re not doing enough, despite your best intentions.

Relax! It’s normal to feel a bit nervous. But with this basic plan, you can get the most out of the experience.

Before the conference

  • Since most teachers schedule around 15 minutes for a parent-teacher conference, it’s best to plan ahead to use that time effectively.
  • Talk to your child beforehand. You may want to say, “I’m going to be meeting with your teacher; what might she tell me?” Your child’s response can provide discussion ideas.
  • Come with a list of questions about your child’s academic and social issues, as well as questions about the teacher’s teaching style and philosophy. Some good questions may include:
    • What are my child’s strongest and weakest subjects?
    • What can I do at home to extend my child’s learning?
    • Is my child working up to their ability? If not, what be done to change that?
    • How well does my child get along with classmates?
    • How can you challenge my child if they’re excelling?
    • How can you support my child if they’re falling behind?

During the conference

  • Make the most of your meeting by arriving on time.
  • Try not to bring babies or young children to the conference.
  • Ask your most important questions first, in case time runs out.
  • Share information about your child—both strengths and weaknesses—to help the teacher better understand their needs.
  • When expressing concerns, be tactful but communicate the problem clearly. Listen to what the teacher has to say, then work together to find a solution.
  • Take notes and review them after the meeting. If something is unclear, schedule a follow-up meeting to clarify.

After the conference

  • Share with your child only what is helpful, focusing as much as possible on the positive aspects. Explain that you and the teacher are there for support and to make their school experience the best it can be.
  • Start right away on the action plan that you and the teacher worked out together. Discuss the plan with your child. To see if the plan is working, watch your child’s behavior and check class work and homework.
  • Stay in regular contact with the teacher to discuss the progress your child is making.