Getting Ready for Preschool Parent/Teacher Conferences

Mother and child waving to teacher
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Although preschool parent-teacher conferences may seem unnecessary—after all, it's not as if your child is being graded on playing or snack time—these conferences are actually an important part of your child's preschool or childcare experience. When you meet with your child's teacher, you learn a lot about your little one, from his strengths and weaknesses to how he really interacts with other kids.

Meetings like these are just part of the overall, ongoing communication you have with your child's care providers. They give you a chance to spend more time with the teachers focusing on just your child (vs. quick check-ins at the beginning and end of the day). And they allow you to ask questions (unlike one-way communication tools, such as newsletters or daily activity logs).

Think of a preschool parent-teacher conference as your eyes and ears into a world that you aren't otherwise a part of.

Before and During Conferences

Before you go into your child's parent/teacher conference, it's a good idea to have a quick talk with your child. Does she like preschool? What is her favorite part? What doesn't she like?

Write everything down so you don't forget. This is an opportunity to get one-on-one time with your child's teacher, so you don't want to miss out. Bring a pen and paper with you as well, so you can take notes as you chat.

Be Open-Minded

Everyone wants to hear good things about their child, but no child is perfect. If your preschooler's teacher mentions something that could be a problem—whether it is a behavior issue or even what the teacher thinks could be a speech delay or some other developmental delay—listen to what she has to say without defensiveness.

Then work together to come up with a plan of action. If you need time to think it over, say so, and see if the teacher is available at another time. Remember, the common goal is to help your child succeed.

Ask for Specifics

If the teacher mentions that your child is having trouble socializing in the classroom, for example, ask her to provide you with specific details. You'll have a better sense of what is going on, and may be able to provide some background insight if she can give you detailed incidents.

For example, if your child pushed a classmate last Wednesday, you may remember that he had gone to bed later the night before and was very cranky in the morning.

Offer Specifics

Communication is truly a two-way street. If there is something going on at home—the birth of a new sibling, a move, a divorce, a death in the family—definitely let the teacher know what is going on.

Do it sooner rather than later, even if you need to ask for a conference outside of the normal schedule. Even if your child is behaving fine at home, life events like these can definitely impact a child's behavior.

Create a Plan

At the end of the conference, make sure you know what the next steps are, if any, and what the best way to contact your child's teacher is—phone, email, after school, etc. If the teacher has indicated she needs to get you more information, find out when she'll have it to you by and when you can and should follow up.

6 Questions for Your Child's Teacher

If these topics don't come up during the conversation, be sure to ask about them.

  • How does my child interact with you and with other staff members? Ask how your child responds to caregivers. To zero in on this, you could ask how your child asks for help if she needs it, or what she does if she is feeling sad or hurt.
  • How does my child interact with the other children? Learn more about how your child socializes with his peers. If your child is shy, does he participate in group play? Does he have specific classmates he gravitates towards? Does the teacher have any concerns about his social skills?
  • Do you notice any issues with my child's development for her age? Preschool is more about building social and emotional skills than academic ones, but teachers are good at spotting the signs of all kinds of developmental delays.
  • What are my child's strengths and weaknesses? Don't feel like you are just asking the teacher to brag about your child. Teachers have a unique perspective, and since you're not in the classroom, you don't see what they see. Follow up by asking what you can do at home to help work on any areas that need to be addressed or reinforced.
  • What will my child be learning this year? Knowing this helps you support your child's learning at home, whether it's with books from the library, special outings, or just conversations around the dinner table.
  • Can my child follow the rules and instructions? Preschool helps prepare kids for kindergarten and first grade by helping them learn how to act in a group and in a classroom. Find out how your child is doing with concepts such as taking turns, obeying school rules, and paying attention.
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