When a child’s day is spent playing with blocks, singing, engaging in imaginary play and participating in circle time, there’s still a lot of learning and adjusting happening. A preschool parent-teacher conference will provide you with an opportunity to learn how your young student is faring. Is he making friends? Are her gross and fine motor skills on target for her age? Is your child learning to follow instructions?
Some preschools don’t hold formal parent-teacher conferences unless asked by parents, or if the teacher feels one is warranted. The reason is that many preschool teachers communicate with their students’ parents informally throughout the school year, at drop-off and pick-up, and anytime there is a concern.
“We really strive to have open communications all year long,” says Leslie Marley, director of education and curriculum at U-GRO Learning Centres. “When we do have the sit-down parent-teacher conferences, we like to schedule them in October, February and May, when we have our assessments of our older children.”
Marley says that typically families that want to have a conference have concerns about their children’s development, or they just want reassurances that their children are doing well.
At Lancaster Country Day School (LCDS), Caroline Badri, head of the Lower School, says that parents “really want to hear about their child.” She explains that the school looks at parent-teacher conferences for preschoolers and junior kindergartners as a chance to get to know the families. “We hope that they stay with the school up through 12th grade, and we try to establish that positive relationship from the very beginning,” she says. The private school holds its parent-teacher conferences in October and the end of March, but, like Marley, Badri says that there’s always communications between the parent and teacher.
“On a weekly basis, we let them know what they’re doing in the classroom,” says Badri, explaining that they send home written reports. Additionally, parents are able to catch up with teachers at morning drop-off and again at the end of the day.
Expectations for the meeting
Both Marley and Badri say that one thing parents want to hear about at a parent-teacher conference is how their child is faring while away from them. That, in turn, can be the impetus for the discussion.
“We find when teachers start sharing social-emotional pieces and cognitive pieces and how they’re developing physically and what they’re doing in the classroom, that tends to prompt the parents into questions about how they’re doing,” says Baldi.
Depending upon when you have your parent-teacher conference, you may have more specific questions to ask or concerns to address. At LCDS, while the October conferences are more of a “getting to know you” session, the conferences held at the end of March occasionally can be difficult.
“Sometimes it’s a hard conversation,” explains Badri. “Sometimes maybe they just need another year of preschool. Sometimes they’re on the fence with their developmental pieces. It’s kind of nice if a child needs another year of junior kindergarten or preschool; this is the most positive time to do it, not when they’re in fifth or sixth grade and they need to do catch-up. And sometimes the parents bring their luggage of how they were raised, and it’s so different now from when we were in school. So [the conferences] are education for the parent, the teacher, and they really benefit the child.”
It is the child, after all, who is the focus of the conference. When asked how what is discussed can have a positive impact on the student, both Badri and Marley explain that parents can provide teachers with valuable insight into their child, their personality, their learning style, and even some stressors that may be going on at home. That, in turn, “might help the teacher in terms of differentiating or creating the activities in the classroom that might help the child,” says Badri.
And parents? They get a better understanding of what their child is doing during the day. It’s also another way for them to stay involved. Teachers can provide parents with ideas of how to extend lessons and reinforce what the child is learning in school. They can also help parents encourage more details when they ask their child, ‘What did you do at school today?’
Summarizing parents’ expectations of those very first parent-teacher conferences at the preschool level, Badri says, “They just want to know that their child feels safe and they’re having fun while they’re there and that their needs are being met. It’s a very nice feeling when they have those conferences.”
Questions parents can come into a meeting prepared to ask
- What does my child seem to like best about preschool?
- What frustrates my child? How does she handle getting angry or upset?
- How is my child adjusting to preschool?
- Is my child making friends?
- Does my child play nicely? Work/play well in groups?
- Is my child following instructions?
- What are my child’s strengths?
- Do you have any concerns about my child?
Leslie Penkunas is the editor of Central Penn Parent.