Education Guides

Surviving Parent Teacher Conferences

One year when I taught 3rd grade, a parent arrived for her son's conference flushed, sweaty and barely able to stammer out a hello. I offered her some water and hoped that she wasn't having a heart attack! She finally relaxed and confided that she'd been worried all afternoon about the parent-teacher conference. The idea of having to meet with and speak to the teacher- any teacher- practically gave this woman a panic attack!

This parent's anxiety may have been worse than most, but most of us would undoubtedly agree that parent-teacher conferences aren't our favorite way to spend an hour. I am not going to suggest that any parent should love rearranging their schedule and sitting in those tiny chairs, but parent-teacher conferences can be a positive experience. They provide an opportunity to:

- turn in paperwork like the forms and permission slips you have been meaning to fill out since the first day of school

- make certain that the teacher has updated personal information such as your new address or cell phone number

- remind or notify the teacher about your child's allergies or special needs

- find out if your child has settled in and seems happy in his new class

- get your hands on that report card!


One of the absolute best things about parent-teacher conferences is that you can discuss homework! A conference is your second chance to ask all of your homework questions and get them answered by the teacher (your first chance was at Back to School Night). Please print out this list of Homework Questions for the Teacher. Take it with you, ask the questions and write down what the teacher says! You can refer to it later.

This is also an excellent time to share your own Homework Philosophy with your child's teacher. No, you won't be discussing religion or politics! I'm referring to your feelings and theories about homework: how much homework you feel comfortable "making" your child do each night, whether or not you will allow your child do homework over weekends, vacations and holidays, etc. A lot of this information will probably occur to you when asking the Homework Questions for the Teacher- please share it! The teacher will appreciate it, you will feel better, and your child will benefit from your honest and open communication.

Angela Norton Tyler is a literacy coordinator, educational coach and former teacher. Her articles, books, e-books and seminars on reading, studying and homework organization have helped scores of students and their families. Please visit to learn more about Angela and her often-controversial views on homework, teaching and education in general.


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