From mid-October through early November, nearly every school in the country hosts parent-teacher conference week. But should you sign up and go even if it means missing a few hours of work or finding a baby-sitter? Absolutely! Not only is the meeting a great opportunity to get a clearer picture of your twins’ academic strengths and challenges but it’s also a chance for you to discuss your concerns about your twins as well. The session also allows you to build a relationship with your children’s teacher, and opens the door for further ongoing communication. This is especially important for parents of twins since overall twins experience more reading and language problems than single-born children. And research has shown that parent participation positively affects a child’s scholastic achievement as well as his/her social skills.
If you’re scheduled to meet with your twins’ teacher in the coming weeks, here are a few pointers to make your conference a productive one.
Even if your twins share the same classroom, make sure you schedule two time slots so you have enough time to talk about each child separately. Some parents even opt for appointments on different days—a great idea as it forces everyone, teacher as well as parents, to focus on each twin individually, avoiding the tendency to compare your twins’ progress against each other rather than the class as a whole.
Make sure the teacher is referring to the correct twin.
Sounds like a no-brainer, right? But you’d be surprised how often it happens especially if your twins are identical, have similar-sounding names, or share the same classroom. Yet even parents of fraternal twins are not immune—teachers have more than once mixed up my fraternal twin boys now that they attend a small high school where they have several classes together.
Parent-teacher conferences should be a two-way conversation, not just the teacher talking about your children’s progress. Attend the meeting prepared with a few questions of your own. For instance, are you clear on her homework policy? Is there anything different at home that the teacher should be aware of that may affect your twins’ behavior in class? (Divorce? A beloved pet’s passing?) Are they functioning well together in class or does the teacher see some twin rivalry surfacing? Take a look at your twins’ homework and tests prior to your conference to get an idea of the type of work they are doing.
Furthermore, speak with your twins individually before your meeting to see if they have any worries or anxiety about school. (Do they feel confident in all subjects? Do they feel comfortable sharing the same classroom? If their classmates try to compare them to one another, does that annoy or upset them? Or, does the teacher step in to try and redirect the conversation?)
Be open minded.
Be a good listener and don’t be afraid to ask for clarification on points you don’t understand.
Stay on track.
You have 15 minutes, tops, to meet with the teacher. Not a lot of time. Make it productive by staying on topic. In other words, keep the small talk to a minimum.
Keep notes and records.
Come prepared with a notebook where you can jot down key talking points. Keep a separate file folder for each child where you can include conference notes, a copy of standardized tests and progress reports. Develop an action plan based on the teacher’s recommendations.
Once at home, discuss your conversation with each of your twins separately. Highlight their achievements and talents; acknowledge their struggles and offer solutions both in the classroom and at home. And be sure to email the teacher after the conference not only to thank her for her time but to let her know how you’ll implement her suggestions at home.