Parent-teacher conference season is upon us, and while our kids might thrill when we tell them we’ll be chatting with Miss Sarah and getting a peek at their cubby, there’s also business to attend to. “All good things!” is what we of course hope to hear, but what if the feedback is…negative? According to Elizabeth Fraley, CEO of Kinder Ready, here’s how to respond.
How to Receive Negative Feedback About Your Kids
1. First, Come Prepared
Yes, the teacher has the most to prepare in this situation, but it’s also helpful if you do a bit of homework too. Read the weekly newsletters about what’s going on in the classroom, pay attention to the various subject areas your child is focusing on and comb through their work samples for teacher feedback so you know the latest, says Fraley. “Writing down questions ahead of time is imperative to make sure all questions, needs and concerns are addressed.”
2. How to Respond to Negative Feedback
For one thing, take a deep breath. Remember that teachers are specifically trained in understanding the milestones and recommended levels of progress for any given age. “If a teacher notes an area of concern, it is good to have that information,” Fraley says.
Still, there are ways to stay open-minded and receptive about feedback that may surprise you or differ from your own take on your kid. For one thing, remember that you and the teacher are on the same team. “Parents should take constructive feedback and use it to their advantage to better support their child,” Fraley explains. “It’s natural to focus on the stigma of being ‘behind’ or ‘emerging’ in various skill levels, but it’s actually a jumping off point.” In other words, this is your chance to come up with an action plan together.
Next, pay attention to how your child’s teacher communicates feedback. It should always follow a proactive approach, Fraley says. For example, a teacher may mention that your child has trouble focusing or staying in their seat, but they should also come with short- and long-term strategies and goals for improving this behavior (say, an OT assessment or an expectation of improved focus by December) as well as ways to monitor progress and growth over time. “Often, teachers will save various work samples at the beginning of the year, note concerns in the initial parent/teacher conference, then show comparison work samples to show positive changes in student performance,” she says. (She adds that this is also the perfect time to ask about “pull-in services” within the school but outside the classroom—if more support is needed.)
3. And If You Disagree? No Matter What, Don’t Lose Your Cool
Make it a goal to listen first. “Take in what the teacher is saying,” Fraley suggests. “Take notes, too, and, if possible, have an additional set of eyes and ears present.”
But also try to remember that while it’s important to value the teacher’s feedback, this is just one person’s opinion. If you don’t agree with what they have to say, you could ask for a follow-up meeting with another educator from the team or a support specialists who might have a different perspective.
But bottom line: Your kid’s teacher is there to provide an additional set of goals and benchmarks from what you have at home. Come from a place of curiosity, and you just might find it’s easier to sit with any discomfort.