Sometimes, parents have very specific concerns that they want to address during these conferences. Other times, especially as your child progresses in school, you may be less inclined to attend the parent-teacher conference, since you may have no special concerns and have been to so many of these meetings over the course of your child’s school career. There is much to be learned, however, from just showing up to your child's classroom.
The folks at Inside Schools, which is a rich resource for New York City parents, have published a guide geared to math and science education, which includes numerous things to look at in your child's classroom, geared to each elementary grade level. Before even speaking to the teacher, for example, just looking at what is hanging on the walls, what kinds of books are displayed, and what objects are placed around the classroom can all inform your understanding of how and what your child is learning, even in areas beyond science and math.
Another guide to help you prepare for parent-teacher conferences has been created by our colleagues at Understood, who have listed ten tips to make these conferences more productive, including updating your child after the conference and following up with the teacher. The Understood guide also stresses preparation and includes a downloadable worksheet to help you consider questions and concerns and ask about them in an organized way. This worksheet includes specific questions for students with IEPs and 504 Plans, including the important question as to whether your child's teacher has actually seen the IEP or 504 Plan.
A number of NYC public high schools have student-led conferences. One of these schools is the Hillside Arts and Letters Academy, a high school in Jamaica, Queens, where students present their grades and post-graduate plans to their families. This helps students and their families plan ahead, helps students reflect on their performance, and helps make the traditional conference more relevant to these older students and their parents.