At my daughter's old school, parent-teacher conferences were leisurely discussions of a wide range of topics, and, through these conversations, parents and teachers got to know each other better. The part I always found most interesting was getting a glimpse of my daughter's school-day interactions with teachers and classmates.
I was just perusing a handout about how parent-teacher conferences will be conducted at her new school. The new school is larger than the old one, and teachers have less time to meet with parents. I understand that, but I was nevertheless taken aback by being given instructions.
Parent-Teacher Conference Rules & Suggestions
1. Make a list of everything you want to talk about with the teacher before the meeting.
2. Arrive promptly or early so that the conference can begin on schedule.
3. Begin with positive comments about the teacher, class, or school.
4. Do not bring up topics that require lengthy discussion or that are not related to the purpose of the conference.
5. Be open-minded when the teacher makes suggestions.
6. Keep your emotions under control.
7. Take notes about what the teacher says about your child.
8. Thank the teacher and express your appreciation for the conference.
9. Do not stay beyond your scheduled time. Conferences cannot last more than ten (10) minutes without prior arrangement.
Most of these are reasonable. I suppose I was most taken aback by being told to compliment the teacher and/or school at the beginning and end of the meeting, and by the rigid 10-minute limit of the conference.
Even so, there is something to be said for being organized about these interactions. Perhaps I should adapt these rules for my office hours? How about the following:
Student-Professor Office Hour Rules & Suggestions
1. Be prepared for your visit with your professor. If you are going to ask questions, know what they are in advance. If you have written them down, know where this list is. If you are going to need a book or notebook or some other material (perhaps a writing implement?) during the meeting, have it out and ready so that your professor does not need to watch you rummage through your backpack.
2. Arrive during office hours (not before or after) or at another pre-arranged time. If you are going to be more than 7 minutes late for a specific appointment or are not going to show up, call.
3. Do not whine about how hard you are working and do not make insincere statements about how much you love the class, especially if you are asking for something (e.g. an A; more time on an assignment; a make-up exam).
4. Do not describe at length your personal life unless you have reason to think that your professor wants to hear about this. For example, if your professor says "How fascinating. Please tell me more about your ovarian cysts", you can feel free to discuss your medical experiences at length. If you launch into a description of your medical problems with no evidence that the professor wants to know the details of your problems, just give the relevant information. Professors can be quite empathetic people, but realize that a professor's idea of Too Much Information might be different from yours.
5. If your professor makes suggestions for how you might improve your understanding of course materials and/or improve your grade (e.g. attend class), it's a good idea to consider these ideas.
6. Keep your emotions under control if at all possible, especially if these emotions involve anger. It is OK to cry, as long as you aren't crying in order to acquire something (e.g. an A; more time on an assignment; a make-up exam).
7. Take notes about what the professor says if you think you might want to use this information for course-related activities (e.g. passing the class). If your professor has been scribbling notes and figures on scrap paper to help answer your questions, it's OK to ask if you can have the paper for future reference.
8. If you visit the professor during an appointment outside regular office hours because you couldn't attend the scheduled office hour and/or you need additional time and assistance, it's polite to thank the professor for his/her time, but the best thank-you is to be prepared, to listen, and to learn.
10 months ago