In her book, The Essential Conversation: What Parents and Teachers Can Learn From Each Other, Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot shares her wisdom on what parents and teachers can do to prepare for the (sometimes fraught) parent-teacher conference. Here are four of my favorite insights:

  • "Parents should come prepared to share their very intimate and complex view of their child, bringing a vivid anecdote or story that will help the teacher know their child better.”
  • “Teachers need to come to the meeting prepared with evidence of the child’s work — writings, homework assignments, tests, and observations gathered in a portfolio that will help focus the conversation and make it productive.”
  • “... parents and teachers both must come to the conference with their defenses down and their hearts open, prepared to listen, to really hear and appreciate the other's perspective."
  • “Encounters between families and schools need to be richer, more productive, and more meaningful, and yet we should not overburden them with unrealistic expectations.”

Listen to her read a 6-minute excerpt from her book describing a memory of her parents clashing with her 2nd grade teacher.

Author, sociologist and MacArthur fellowship recipient Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot is the first African-American woman in Harvard's history to have an endowed chair named in her honor.

Tell us over in our COMMENTS section: What is your experience with parent-teacher conferences?