For smoother parent-teacher conferences, Pillet-Shore offers the
If you're nervous about your child's parent-teacher
conference, it might help to keep in mind the teacher is probably
just as nervous as you are.
"Parents would say, 'I don't know how to do a
conference,'" says Danielle Pillet-Shore, a researcher who spent
several years videotaping these conferences. "But the thing that
surprised me is teachers feel the same way. They'd say, I was never
formally trained in how to do this."
But while observing these interactions, Pillet-Shore found
parents and teachers often instinctively knew how to proceed, just
not in the way most people would think.
Most parents start off the conference by criticizing their
own child, something that seems at odds with the preconceived idea
that parents come in with their fists up ready to defend against
"What I found was, this makes sense. By criticizing your
own child to the teacher, you're able to say, 'I've got this
knowledge about my own kid. ... I'm fair, I'm realistic. I don't
have the halo effect,'" Pillet-Shore says.
What happened next was even more surprising-teachers
became the ones to defend the child, by reassuring parents their
child was normal and they're doing a good job with him.
"You get this amazing inversion where the teacher is
praising the child and you are criticizing and that's actually OK,"
she says. "What you've been able to work out is, we're on the same
side. You see what's going on with your child and you're involved,
but you're sending the teacher signals that you're open to advice
and opportunities to work on growth."
The best thing to take away from Pillet-Shore's research?
"Parents should feel reassured by the knowledge that you're already
very good at this."
Liz DeCarlo is the former senior editor at Chicago Parent.
See more of Liz's stories here.
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