Despite the many innovations in education, one thing remains virtually unchanged: the parent-teacher interview. Alternatives are happening in some places, says Dr. Linda Cameron, an associate professor at OISE, but the traditional interview routine probably hasn’t changed much since you were in school—the teacher sits across from the parent and spells out what the student is doing well, or perhaps, not so well according to provincial standards. As a Kindergarten teacher and a mom of three grown kids (one a vice-principal), Cameron has sat on both sides of the desk. Here are three tips she suggests to make the meeting more effective for everyone.
1. If possible, try not to make the parent-teacher interview associated with the fall progress report your very first visit to your child’s classroom. “Many schools have meet-the-teacher events or information sessions in the first month of school. Attend these functions,” says Cameron. It will help put a face to the name on both sides. And it is a great opportunity to meet the school’s office staff as well.
2. Write down any questions you have for the teacher prior to the interview. If it’s a meeting that’s been requested, make sure both you and the teacher know what the meeting is about to prevent the feeling of being ambushed, which can put both parties on the defensive, says Cameron. Ask how your teacher likes to be contacted—by email, telephone or notes—and follow that direction. But don’t wait for a regular interview appointment if you have concerns or questions regarding your child: Cameron advises parents do ask for a meeting right away so the issue can be addressed.
3. Keep the channels of communication open. If there is a change in your family life, such as a death, separation or serious illness, the teacher should be made aware so they can be sensitive to your child. Don’t be afraid to ask the teacher for clarification or make suggestions, says Cameron. “And it’s always nice, if you’re a parent, to celebrate the good things about school,” she says. So share your child’s comments about school—whether it is how much he enjoys story time or how he talks about what he is learning in social studies.