by REBEKAH SHAFFER and JONATHON WYLIE
Why Parent-Teacher Conferences Are Essential
Parent-teacher conferences are far more important to the health of a classical Christian school than either parents or teachers tend to realize. Members of both parties can easily—and often do—see conferences as an administration-mandated inconvenience that just has to be endured. And if this is the case, conferences typically will not be stewarded for the great benefit that they can afford.
The corrective is for teachers and parents alike to remember that teachers operate in loco parentis, “in the place of parents.” This does not mean, obviously, that parents simply hand off the task of education to teachers in the way that a homeowner hands off a plumbing issue to a technician. It means, rather, that parents and teachers operate as partners in the education of children. Parents have the primary responsibility of educating their children, and teachers serve as assistants and experts toward that end.
With this in mind, parent-teacher conferences present golden opportunities to bolster our partnership in shepherding children’s minds and hearts. What follows is a series of recommendations for how to maximize parent-teacher conferences, organized into three broad categories: Purpose, Preparation, and Participation.
The Purpose of Conferences
Classical Christian teachers are committed to providing an education that cultivates wisdom and virtue for the sake of human flourishing. Children are more than their brains, more than their grades, and more than future laborers. They are whole persons made in God’s image. They have minds, bodies, and souls. They have relationships with people in their households, churches, and school. They have strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures, highs and lows. All of that matters to parents, and all of it matters to the classical Christian educator. Accordingly, a parent-teacher conference is an occasion for parents to give insights about their children that may help teachers know their students better, and thus care for them well. At the same time, it is an opportunity for teachers to communicate to parents their concern for students’ holistic wellbeing.
How to Prepare for Conferences
As we strive to steward parent-teacher conferences for maximal benefit, it is important that we set aside some time to prepare for them. Specifically, it is helpful for parents to prepare their spirits and their content.
- Spirit: Please pray for your teachers. It is sobering to consider the indelible influence that teachers have on your children. Pray that God gives to your students’ teachers wisdom and skill for their high calling. As you pray for your teachers, we also ask that you pray for Spirit-filled and Spirit-led conversations with them, so that parents and teachers can work together for the wellbeing of each child.
- Content: As parents prepare to meet with teachers, we also propose that parents spend some time taking stock of their students’ holistic wellbeing. Teachers will want to know, and will benefit from knowing, how your child is doing spiritually, socially, physically, and emotionally. It would also be beneficial to write down any questions or feedback you may have for your child’s teachers.
How to Participate in Conferences
Finally, having prepared for the conference, parents come to the actual meeting. Here they should be mindful of how they present themselves and their content. An excellent conference will begin on time and end on time. It will be given to discussing matters both of concern and celebration. The conversation should ideally clarify any goals that teachers and parents wish to set, together with clear strategies for achieving them. From beginning to end, the conference should be marked by a spirit of partnership, warmth, and humility, as parents and teachers work together for the good of the children the Lord has entrusted to our care.
A vibrant and healthy parent-teacher partnership is essential to the health of our school. As we embark upon our fall parent-teacher conferences, please know that your administration team and teachers are grateful for each of you. We are praying for you and for our teachers as you work together to cultivate strong relationships in service of our students.