The sights and sounds of school come flooding back as you settle into your under-sized seat. You may be an adult with all the responsibilities that title implies. You’re still at the mercy of a teacher who gets to spend six-plus hours a day with your child. And suddenly you want to please him or her as much as your child does Monday through Friday.
Mommylibrium and I had our first parent-teacher conference of the school year this week. We’ve been fortunate to have a string of smart, dedicated teachers for our sons so far, and Eli’s new teacher is no different. The meeting still proved a learning experience on a number of fronts.
About Your Son …
We found out things about Eli we never knew – how he struggles in certain areas, the boundless imagination that flavors everything he touches and how his peers perceive him. That’s pretty valuable information for a parent.
For fellow dads about to meet their child’s teacher for the first time, consider the following suggestions:
- Come Prepared: What issues do you want to address with the teacher? How can he help your child with any homework problems? Can she offer clues about his occasional bouts of bad behavior? Don’t walk in with your arms folded, ready to passively hear what she has to say. Have a rough game plan already in place.
- Listen (Really Listen): We’re all eager to hear how charming/positive/delightful our child can be. That’s easy. What about the other areas, the gray zones that aren’t as easy to accept? Don’t sit there slowly fuming, mentally checking out. Listen. There’s always the chance the teacher is wrong, but most are there to help your child in any way they can.
- Compare and Contrast: The Eli we see in our home is different than the one I drop off at school every morning. That’s just part of life. These parent-teacher conferences are a great way to learn about the other side of your child. He’s the one who interacts with his peers when no parents are around, is forced to study things beyond his grasp and is otherwise challenged in ways not possible on the home front. Get to know the other child in your life. You might be intrigued by what you hear.
- Leave with a To-Do List: OK, you survived the meeting. Your child is more or less on track, academically speaking. Don’t leave it at that. What are the areas for improvement? What steps should you take in the next few weeks to build on the conference discussion?
- Time for an Atta Boy: Assuming your child has earned the parent’s respect it’s time for a reward. It could be an ice cream sundae or an extra hour of screen time. Make sure your child knows his or her hard work isn’t being ignored.
Some dads do try their best with the parent-teacher conference but come up a wee bit short …