Everything You Need to Know About Parent-Teacher Conferences

These are meant to be friendly conversations that help parents get a window into their child’s school day

You know the drill: You drop your child off at school in the morning and wave goodbye as they walk through that doorway. Then, you wait all day for the elusive “How was your day?” interrogation to unfold all of the day’s mysteries (By the way, good luck with that). What the heck is your kid doing all day—and are they doing OK at it?

Guess what? Your child’s teacher knows! And the parent-teacher conference is your chance to get the inside scoop on how your child is doing in the classroom and how they compare to their peers when it comes to behavior, social-emotional skills, and schoolwork.

“The purpose of a parent-teacher conference is to convey information that we see at school to the parents,” said Michael Warner, a Los Angeles-based elementary school teacher who’s been working in the classroom for more than 20 years. “It’s a chance to let you know about things that we might see at school that you don’t see at home.”

But getting all that uber-important information in a teensy little time slot can feel overwhelming. So whether you’re just starting on your child’s school journey or you’re an old pro with a fair share of P/T conferences under your belt, here’s what you can expect from—and how to prepare for—this crucial rite of passage.

What Happens at a Parent-Teacher Conference and Why


So, you’ve got your 20-minute time slot and you’re sitting in a tiny chair inside your child’s classroom.  The clock has started, and your kid’s teacher looms in front of you like a talk therapist waiting for you to unravel. Now what? Should you pour your heart out and unload your fears, excitement, and expectations about your child’s school experience? Or should you let your teacher do all the talking and heed any advice she may offer?

The answer? Maybe a little bit of both. Simply: The parent-teacher conference is a way for both parents and teachers to learn how to best help your child succeed. You’re on the same team.

“If it’s for a student who is doing well academically and who behaves in class, then the parent-teacher conference is more for the parents to hear how great their child is doing,” said Kristen Kraus, a second-grade teacher in South Park, Co. “But if it’s for a kid who is struggling academically and/or who exhibits challenging behaviors, then I’d say it’s equally important for both the parent and the teacher.”

These 15 to 20-minute meetings are generally held once (sometimes twice) a year—usually a third to halfway through the school year so teachers have enough time to collect information on how your child handles the academic and social demands of whatever grade they’re in.

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