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Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

What teachers say, what parents hear

November 4, 2010

The first nine weeks of school have passed, and in our district, this marks the time when parents sit down at the Parent-Teacher Conference to talk about their child and progress in school. Other similar meetings can be had throughout the year on an as-needed basis.

I've had several parents talk to me about what they heard from the teacher. In most cases, I'm almost sure that the teacher had a different intended meaning, but I thought it was interesting to hear what the parents took away. Names are pseudonyms.

Teacher: Kate is always so quiet and never a problem in class. I wish I had twenty more just like her!
Parent: Because my child is quiet and somewhat shy, she fades into the woodwork of the classroom. Would the teacher know if Kate was having a problem?

Teacher: I'm sure you sit here every year and hear how great your child is.
Parent: I feel like I'm being put on the defensive about my child! You're right, he is a great kid! Now tell me how you're going to challenge him academically this year.

Teacher: If I sit right there with Adam, he gets it right. If I don't, forget it!
Parent: Wow! It feels like you're mad at him for needing the extra help. What are you really trying to tell me?

(This last scenario led to a long discussion between the parent and me about whether Adam might have ADHD, something this parent has wondered about in the past. After our talk, I directed this Dad to a section of our sister site, LDOnline's ADHD Basics.)

If you haven't had your Parent-Teacher conference yet, or are planning to follow up with another meeting, here are some resources that might help:

For Parents
The Parent-Teacher Conference

Surviving the Difficult Parent-Teacher Conference

Parent-Teacher Communication Plan

For Teachers:
From TeacherVision, a wealth of Parent-Teacher Conference Resources

Building Parent-Teacher Relationships

Successful Parent-Teacher Conferences with Bilingual Families

Strong communication between home and school is an important piece of a child's success in school. Subtle word choices or body language from either party can really change the intended message. I'd love to hear from some teachers: What did you hear parents say?


I'm a teacher as well as a parent. The most valuable thing my son's teacher told us during our P/T conference was,"Your son is such a gentleman!" I know that he does fine academically and that he is happy and talkative, but this comment allowed me to realize that his teacher has really come to know him and appreciate him. It's a blessing to send him to a classroom where mutual respect is a priority!

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