Make 'meet-the-teachers' matter
Believe it or not, parent-teacher meetings can be both enjoyable and helpful.
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Stuffing your adult-sized body into a desk sized for a 9-year-old is not an exercise designed to build your self-esteem; especially if the teacher – seated at adult height – is giving you a list of your failings as a parent and the many incurable faults of your precious offspring. Meet-the-teachers season is a time of dread for many parents who receive a notice that the teacher ‘would like to see you’. Some schools give out reports only to parents who come and fetch them, while at others it’s only those children with learning or behavioural problems whose parents will get the invitation. Teachers also sigh at the prospect of these encounters with parents who are often deaf to the truth about little Janey’s maths phobia, and blame the school, the government and especially the teacher for her failure to perform times tables to standard.

A little attitude adjustment can turn those meetings into a fruitful exercise that will benefit the teacher, the parent, and most importantly, the child. Here are some ways to get the best from them:

Every term, teachers will sit for hours staring at an empty classroom because some parents simply don’t pitch for a meeting they have agreed to. ‘It’s important to go, especially if you think there are problems,’ says educational consultant and author Tracy Blues. ‘Don't be an ostrich and think the problem will go away if you ignore it. The whole point of parent-teacher meetings is so parents can forge a partnership with your child's school.’

Be positive
Try to start the meeting on a positive note. A sincere compliment such as: ‘I like the way you have arranged the children’s projects on the wall’ or ‘You always seem to be here early’ will help the teacher relax. Even better is if you can find something positive to say about your child’s growth since he or she has been in the class. Try to shed your own prejudices against school and teachers – perhaps you had a bad time in high school, but this is not the time to relive those horror days of Mr McIntosh and his chalk-throwing habit.

Be prepared
Bring a list of discussion points that you would like to raise. Chat to your child about the meeting you are going to and whether there is anything they need clarified about the way the school or classroom operates. This is an opportunity to cast a light on misunderstandings such as ‘Bronwyn, your teacher says she never said you should eat Niknaks in class if you missed breakfast.’ Tick each item off as it has been addressed, so you don’t miss anything. Take notes if there are things you need to remember to do or discuss when you get home.

Be interested
‘Ask the teacher how they do things,’ suggests Tracy. Where does your child sit, who sits near him and where does he keep his books? What are the class structures and rules relating to discipline, talking about body parts and dealing with bullying? ‘This helps you present a united front at home and school,’ she says.

‘Tell the teacher about anything happening in your child's life that may be affecting his or her performance and behaviour at school,’ advises Tracy. The teacher will be able to relate to your child much better if she knows that there is something going on in the household. Mention divorce, illness, death of a loved one, depression, fear, crime or if a parent is away. Do remember, though, that there is a queue of other parents waiting outside, so the soapie of your ongoing maintenance war with your ex needs to be confined to a brief synopsis.

Sum up
Conclude the meeting by thanking the teacher for his or her time, and quickly list again the main points you have gained from the meeting: ‘So if Mikey can stop drinking cider before school and refrains from stabbing his classmates, you think he will progress better.’

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