Parents who have children with special needs go through basic procedures before meeting teachers for the first time. Planning to have a successful first parent-teacher conference requires an understanding of both parties’ positions and concerns. In addition, when your child has an individualized education program (IEP), you must attend IEP meetings with school staff. Coordinating these meetings is essential for helping your child receive the best overall education.
How Do I Prepare for the First Parent–Teacher Conference?
Planning for the first official meeting with your child’s teacher should begin weeks before the big event. Never wait until the night before the parent–teacher conference to prepare what you are going to say and do. Typically, it is wise if you take notes when you attend your child’s Back-to-School Night. You should carefully observe the teacher and the classroom. Later on, you can send the teacher an email to identify any initial concerns prior to a formal conference. By doing this, you’ll avoid any misunderstandings and make sure that you are both on the same page.
What Can I Do During This Conference?
Your goal should be to help the teacher to hold an effective parent-teacher conference. First of all, allow the teacher to take the “lead” and actively listen to what he or she is saying. This is a process of taking turns in which you let the teacher speak before you react. The conference should be a give-and-take exchange that helps you to learn the teacher’s overall expectations before you offer suggestions, ask questions or make comments. The whole idea is for you and the teacher to form a team—a partnership that works together for the benefit of your child.
What Do I Do After the Conference?
Following the first conference meeting, you must keep track of a schedule that includes important dates, such as projects, tests, marking periods, etc. Keep a log book or journal along with a calendar to mark down key information regarding your child’s instruction and progress. Next, maintain two-way communication between you and the teacher that supports regular contact and collaboration. Moreover, do your part to help your child to achieve home study and IEP expectations.
Following It Up
After your first meeting with your child’s teacher, you should feel both engaged and empowered. You should know what the teacher expects of your child and you should know how to facilitate his or her progress. Above all, you should be assured that the school and teacher will provide your child with effective special services. Understand that through teamwork, you and your child’s teacher can solve any problem in a positive way.