Know what your most important question is going into the conference. This has never been more crucial than in high school. The teachers may have as many as 30 or 40 other students in the class and time is even more limited at these conferences. You want to make sure you get the main question answered. How is he doing? Is there anything I can do? Or anything I need to know?
Listen as much as you can. These conferences are likely to be very short and to the point on how your child is performing in this one specific subject, and you want to try to absorb as much as possible. You are likely to be going to six different classes, and you want to make sure you know how your child is performing in all of them. Take notes. You may even want to ask to record the conversation so you remember everything correctly after the meeting.
Ask the teacher how much time your child should be spending on his class per night. In high school, parents are often less aware than in middle or elementary school of what is needed for homework. Ask how long it should be taking your child to complete homework at night, and compare that with how long it is actually taking him. If the time is significantly longer, it may signal a problem with the class or understanding. If the time is shorter, and your child’s grades are good, it may be a sign that your child is ready for more advanced work.
Ask about work completion. As in middle school, you want to ask your child’s teacher if he is turning his work in on time and if he is completing the assignments. This is especially important in the first year of high school, as your child transitions to an even more rigorous workload than in middle school. Developing time-management skills that will be crucial in high school and beyond will help the transition go smoothly and prepare your child for the years that follow.
Ask about extracurricular activities and schoolwork. In high school, students often take on more extracurricular activities, and it is important to ask the teacher if your child appears to have enough time to devote to school time. Is he racing to complete assignments the morning after a big game or school play? Does the quality of his schoolwork suffer when he spends extra time volunteering? While extracurricular activities are important to building your child’s secondary education applications and contribute to a well-rounded young adult, they shouldn’t come at the expense of his grades.
Ask what sort of career or college the teacher thinks your child will be successful in. As you and your child start to think about life beyond high school, teachers can offer valuable insight into how prepared your child is to handle advanced workflow and time management, whether your child is preparing for a 4-year-university, vocational school, or the workforce.
No one knows your child better than you do. Despite the fact your child is taking on more responsibility and independence in high school, your involvement is still critical. Counselor Ruth Lohmeyer at Northeast High School in Lincoln, Nebraska, says a survey of her 9th graders shows parents are the biggest influencers on students’ career and college choices. The counselor will likely be doing a lot of work with your child in planning for her future. Your insights for the counselor are just as important as what the counselor can offer you. The partnership you form with the counselor will benefit your child and help all of you find the right fit for your child after graduation, whether it is a four-year university, community college, military enrollment, or career.
Your child’s school counselor has a more comprehensive view of your child than her teacher may have. Especially in high school when teachers are often focused on their class or subject, counselors monitor your child’s academic progress and make sure she is taking the right types of classes to graduate on time and be prepared for career and college.
If your child is struggling, the first person you may hear from is the counselor. If your child is having difficulty in multiple classes, the counselor may be brought in to arrange conferences with different teachers. He can develop interventions like monitoring homework completion, having you keep track of grades online, and bringing in tutors if necessary. He may ask you questions about home life – if there’s a place for your child to do homework or if there’s anything emotionally concerning at home that may be interfering with her ability to focus on schoolwork. Counselors are concerned with your child’s overall wellbeing, and can offer referrals to mental health professionals if your child is having emotional or behavioral difficulties.
The transition to high school can be difficult for students. Counselors can be a good resource for your child if she needs someone to talk to or additional guidance on classes or activities. Some school counselors will also pair incoming students with mentors in 11th or 12th grade to help ease the transition and give your child another student she can go to for advice.
In some cases, counselors may start connecting with you and your child during the registration process for high school. The counselor wants to make sure that your child is placed in the right classes. If your child is high-achieving he may suggest trying AP or honors level classes. If your child is behind, he may suggest tutoring or other resources to get your child on track.
The counselor will know graduation requirements for your child. You should be aware of classes your child should take. Starting this conversation with your counselor early on will lay the foundation for planning for your child’s academic future over the next four years.
The counselor is likely to begin asking about your child’s interests and activities. It may be a conversation your child has with the counselor alone, or you may discuss in a meeting. In either case, you should also ask your child about her interests. Ninth grade is a good time to be thinking about what your child wants to do after high school. The counselor can suggest elective classes based on your child’s interests.
Use the checklist below to prepare for your next parent-teacher conference and to make sure it was productive after the meeting. Not all meetings will be exactly the same, but this checklist can serve as a general reference point.
Take notes to prepare for your next parent-teacher conference. Using the guides provided, jot down any questions or important notes you'd like to communicate to your student's teacher or guidance counselor.
I have signed up for a time and location for the meeting
I have checked and know my child’s grades and relevant test scores
I have checked and know my child’s grades and relevant test scores
I have asked my child if there are any questions she would like me to ask the teacher
I have thought about if there are issues at home I should mention to the teacher
I have talked with my spouse, partner, or other guardians for their insight into what we should be prepared to talk about or ask the teacher
I have set up a way for spouse, partner, or other parent to dial-in or Skype if they can’t attend in person
I know what I want to discuss with the teacher
I have written a list of questions to bring up with teacher and have prioritized them so I can make sure to get the most important question answered in case we run out of time
I have a way to take notes during conference (pen and paper, or tablet, etc.)
I know the best way to reach my child’s teacher going forward – email, phone, or additional meetings
I know the areas my child is having problems and ways I can help at home
I know areas and subjects my child is excelling and ways I can encourage this development at home
I feel I left an impression with the teacher that I am engaged and interested in my child’s education and I am eager to continue the communication going forward
I have discussed the meeting with my child and addressed any concerns or praise