Parent - Teacher Interviews

Guidelines for parents - Preparing for the interview

  • Don't be afraid to discuss school thoroughly with your child. If you don't know exactly what is happening, how can you talk details and specifics with the teacher?
  • At the same time, remember your child is only human. Is he or she always utterly truthful at home? If so, then he or she is probably being truthful about school.
  • Don't criticise your child's teacher or talk disparagingly about the teacher in front of your child. Remember, your child is with the teacher six hours a day; don't introduce the problem of divided loyalties.
  • If you are convinced there is a real problem at school then do not hesitate to intervene. But do so carefully and sensitively.
  • Keep the issues clear in your own mind. It is not your ego at stake. It's the most educational program for your child that you are striving for.
  • Before calling the teacher, think through what it is you're concerned about and what it is that you want to say or ask. Writing out some questions or statements may be helpful.
  • Prepare to be able to identify specific examples of your child's work, feelings or behaviour, not merely your own impressions.
  • Avoid running from friend to friend getting free advice. Go right to the source - the teacher.
  • Consider what attitudes and values are involved: the problem might involve differences, not just a teacher doing 'bad things' for your child.
  • Keep in mind that you and the teacher are probably concerned with the same basic goal, i.e. helping your child.
  • Keep in mind that there may be legitimate, honest differences of opinion and judgment about how children should be educated and handled. It might be good to set down for yourself the basic beliefs and assumptions you hold.
  • Never try to set up a pressure group against a teacher with other parents. The problem is in the hands of you and the teacher; it should not become a public crisis.
  • Make a definite appointment with the teacher.

Conducting the interview

  • Be straight in your communication; neither aggressive and demanding nor apologetic and embarrassed.
  • Be prepared to listen but do ask for further explanation when you don't understand. Be prepared to ask questions to clarify what actually happens in the classroom.
  • Express a willingness to help and share in solving the problem. 'What can I do? How would you like me to help?'
  • When you talk with the teacher, express your own ideas, concerns and observations, rather than what you suppose or believe to be the teacher's problems. e.g. 'I have some questions about Sally's readers', rather than 'You are giving Sally readers that are too easy.'
  • Focus on how the problem can be resolved rather than on polarised issues such as Us versus the school'.
  • Don't dwell on past angers, hurts or complaints. Do try not to criticise past teachers to your child's present teacher.
  • Emphasise the child's work, feelings, concerns or behaviour. Deal with evidence of the child's actual reaction.
  • Be alert for opportunities to be positive about the child and the teacher. Don't be totally negative.
  • Don't criticise the teacher personally. Strive to help both yourself and the teacher to avoid defensiveness and hostility.
  • Don't attack the teacher's intentions and feelings about your child.
  • Don't settle for explanations that rely on vague opinions or generalisations. Maintain efforts to see that the discussion focuses on the child's behaviour, your expectations and those of the teacher for helping your child.
  • If reference is made to tests or test scores, ask for a full explanation of the meaning of the scores.
  • Be prepared to share with the teacher constructive information about your child's outside interests and activities. This may help.

Follow-up after the interview

  • If you still feel dissatisfied, unhappy or uncertain, state as honestly as possible that you are still concerned. If the teacher is uncertain about alternative resolutions, state that you would like to discuss the matter further with others present, e.g. Principal, Guidance Officer, etc.
  • Suggest to the teacher that you would like time to think about the issues and will be in touch again.
  • Be willing to go along with a proposal if it sounds plausible but set up another appointment to evaluate how things have progressed.
  • Help your child learn that we must all develop tolerance of others' ideas. Explain that we must accept that everyone must sometimes do things under pressure from others. (But don't let this become a substitute for solving the problem.)
  • Don't threaten or act angrily towards the teacher.
  • If the teacher is overly concerned with 'basic skills', find out what the child's actual needs are and how these basic skills can be demonstrated without undue drill or repetition.

By: Dr. Donald Treffinger
From : TRACKS: Pathways for Gifted Children
By Helen Black et al. Pub: Martin Educational 1988.

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