School Open House vs. Parent Teacher Conferences

Boy (9-11) with father and female teacher, sitting at desk in classroom
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What's the difference between an open house at your child's school and parent-teacher conferences? Both will probably require you taking time off from work and sitting in very small chairs.

A school open house is a designed for the benefit of all parents as a group, while parent-teacher conferences are a time for individual parents.

These two back-to-school occasions serve different purposes for both parents and administration. Each school event has its own purpose as well, so it's worth talking a little bit about what the aims of the open house and the parent-teacher conferences are.

Before you walk down those locker-laden hallways, know why you're there and you'll get the most out of the event.

The School Open House

For parents with fond memories of high-school romances, open house night can be a nostalgic evening. On the other hand, those with busy schedules can rest assured that these nights are often short and sweet.

Usually held right before school begins or the within the first two weeks of school, the open house gives parents and students the chance to get acquainted with the teacher (or teachers), see the school building and classrooms, and perhaps get a quick overview of class expectations and the year's curriculum.

The school parent-teacher association (PTA) will often present and make appeals for new officers as well as talk about critical events on their calendar. The evening will be geared toward putting the school and the grade in the best light and giving parents a chance to connect faces to names of the administration and teaching staff.

While it's not an appropriate time to speak to teachers about your child specifically, open house night gives you the opportunity to meet your child's teacher and express the desire to connect later regarding your concerns and your child's needs.

The Parent Teacher Conference

While an open house is more geared toward talking about the big picture at school, parent teacher conferences are the time to speak to teachers about your child.

Parent teacher conferences are typically held after school has been in session for a few months. This gives teachers enough time to perform routine screenings and get to know your child's strengths and weaknesses a little bit better.

These conferences are designed to give you one-on-one time with your child's teacher. The meetings give you the chance to discuss your concerns and create an action plan with your child's teacher to help them do their best work during the school year.

A little planning goes a long way at a parent teacher conference, as the time allotted to each student may be brief. If your student is struggling, you may want to meet with their teacher before conferences get underway to ensure you have the most productive session.