03/10/2014 12:44 pm ET Updated May 10, 2014

Parent-Teacher Conferences... What Should I Ask the Teacher?

Parent-teacher conferences are filled with important information for parents to use for the benefit of their child. For the parents of young children, it is often a confusing time, as it can be difficult to prepare for this anticipated interaction. The most useful thing to remember is to come to the conference ready to hear and evaluate what the teacher has to say. Leave your anxiety about your child's issues at home. The teacher is a person who knows your child very well, given the number of hours each week spent with him or her. This does not mean that you will agree or disagree with each comment that the teacher makes. It is, instead, a time to share with each other. Your input can be invaluable to the teacher in terms of understanding more about your child and vice-versa.

Usually, the conference follows the evaluation that is sent home. I have had parents who want each comment explained, and I have had parents who simply want to hear how the year is going. An experienced teacher will usually have examples of your child's classwork that visually makes a point, especially if a child is having difficulty in an area. In kindergarten, if a child was having difficulty with fine motor issues, (writing, etc.), I had examples of good writers in the class along with examples grade level writers, (no names on the papers of course), and I would show them samples of their child's work. This enabled the parents to see what the expectations were. Then we could set goals together and I could give them ideas on how they might help their child at home.

Sometimes conferences have surprised me. There was a couple one year who was going through a contentious divorce. Although I offered them separate times to conference, they chose to come together. The entire allotted 20 minutes was spent with them arguing about unrelated issues, and I did not have a chance to say a word! I simply stood up at the ending time and thanked them for coming. As I walked them to the door where the next parents were waiting for their allocated time, I let them know that I would be glad to speak to them again if they wanted to schedule another time. I was frustrated that I could not be of help to them regarding their child!

There was another conference where the father walked in with a tape recorder because his wife was out of town and he did not want her to miss anything. I must admit that I did feel a bit inhibited, but I did my best to be professional.

The conferences that I found to be the most interesting were the ones in which each parent came to speak about opposite perceptions of their child. When I asked one parent about a child who was having behavioral issues in the classroom, the mother stated that she never saw behavior like that at home. The dad immediately jumped in to say that he always saw the same kind of behaviors at home, and why did mom not see it too? Those conferences were always very spirited, and I could gather many assumptions as to why this child was acting out in class.

Make sure you ask questions that are relevant to your child's school experience so that you will feel satisfied when you leave. You and the teacher can always devise a plan for your child, so that his or her experience will be beneficial to the growth of your child. Be a partner in your child's education. The teacher is there to help!