These opportunities to talk to your child's teachers are important and shouldn't be missed. Here are some tips about how to get the best out of your time with the teacher.
Arrange for an interpreter if needed
If you need an interpreter, let us know before the interview. Call 131 450 and ask for an interpreter in your language. The operator will get an interpreter on the line to help you. This service is free.
Do your homework
Take a few minutes before the meeting to jot down any questions or comments you have. Because interviews usually only run 10 to 15 minutes it's good to have a reminder of the points you wanted to raise. Common questions may include:
- How is my child fitting in with other children?
- What are the students working on now?
- Is there anything about my child's needs that I should know?
- Does my child ask questions, participate in class discussions and other activities?
- Is my child's progress satisfactory?
- What activities does my child seem to enjoy the most at school?
- Who are my child's friends?
- Does my child join in with other children in the playground?
- What kinds of things will the class be doing over the next few weeks?
- How is my child progressing in comparison to others in the year?
- Is there anything I can be doing to help my child at home?
- Do you have any concerns about my child?
- Can you tell me the best time and way to contact you if I have a query or concern?
Also, list anything that might be happening at home that may be helpful for your child's teacher to know. If your child has seen a specialist for example, there may be some information that is important for the teacher or the school counsellor to know.
Go with the right attitude
Try to approach the interview with a positive and relaxed attitude, remembering you and the teacher are partners in your child's learning. Don't be afraid to raise your concerns. At the same time, if you're upset about something, let the teacher give you their explanation of the situation. Heading to the school with the attitude that you're going to 'sort them out' won't help anyone.
Many teachers are parents or carers too and the vast majority choose to teach because they want to help kids achieve their best. In other words, you're on the same team.
Don't let issues brew
Don't leave it until you're upset or very worried before you contact the school. Stay in touch with the teacher as best you can, and when a concern arises, make contact to discuss the issue. Give the teacher some clue about your concerns, so they can prepare for your conversation. If, for example, you're worried your child isn't making friends, the teacher may want to observe them in the playground before you talk. Or, if you're concerned your child isn't performing as well as expected, the teacher may want to check last year's notes, talk to colleagues or review assessment results.
If there's something happening at home with your child or another family member, it can affect what's happening at school, so you may want to let the school know.
Walk away with an agreed plan
Admittedly, there are times when the news isn't all good. If the teacher raises issues about your child's learning, development or behaviour, your goal will be to understand the plan to manage that during the school day and how you can help at home.
For example, if your child needs to pay more attention in class and stop distracting others, a behaviour diary which travels between class and home every day may be a good suggestion. The idea is the teacher updates you with a short, written account of your child's day, so you can discuss it with your child each evening.
Ask the teacher what sort of strategies they have in mind and how you can help.
Plan to communicate
The parent-teacher interview is not the only time you can discuss your child with the teacher, but many parents and carers find it's their only opportunity to visit the school. Ask the teacher how you can best communicate with each other in the future. Many teachers make appointments to see or call you outside of school hours, others find email works well.
Don't arrive at the staffroom door unexpectedly and hope to have a quick chat. Between 8:30am and 3:30pm is non-stop for teachers, and their primary responsibility each day is to teach their students. They can't leave their class unattended to talk with you. Respect the teacher's professional skills and expertise and remember you both want what is best for your child.
After the interview
It's important to discuss the meeting with your child and really congratulate them on their strengths. If the teacher made suggestions of things you could do at home, discuss these with your child and commit to following through with them.
Teachers like to talk about the good stuff too
If you don't go to parent-teacher interviews, you're also missing out on the chance to hear the positive things about your child that they may not tell you themselves. It's just as rewarding for teachers to share good news with you.
Be as involved with the school as you can
It's definitely easier to approach the teacher or the principal when you feel part of the school community.
Get to know child's year adviser
Once your child is in high school, the year adviser is a great point of contact when you have a question or problem that's not specific to one subject area. If, for example, your child doesn't seem to be on top of their homework (or says they're not getting any homework) the year adviser would be the person to call. They can have a chat with the teachers involved and get back to you.
The same goes with social problems your child may be having. Year advisers try to get to know all 'their' kids on a more personal level and can keep an eye on how your child is progressing.
You may need to get others involved
If you've talked to the teacher and still aren't satisfied with the outcome, you can always make an appointment to discuss your concerns with the head teacher, year adviser, deputy or principal. You can bring a support person with you to any meeting at the school. If you need the help of an interpreter, let them know when you make the appointment, so they can arrange to have someone on the phone or at the meeting to help you.