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Should PTA meetings be all about marks or about a child’s overall development? Tips for Indian moms and dads attending PTA meetings:
By Melanie Lobo
Look around at a PTA meeting and you will find most parents bent over answer papers, scanning them and glaring at the kid. The kid cringes as they whisper ‘so many silly mistakes’. The parents then march up to the teacher and argue that their child deserves more marks. Is that what PTA meetings are for? PTA meetings are a great opportunity for parents to meet the folks who are in the best position to give feedback on their child’s strengths and weaknesses – because they are trained and equipped to do just that, and because they spend a good part of the day with your child, and with other children of the same age. Who could be better placed to guide you and your child? Here is how you can make the most of PTA meetings and the time with your child’s teachers:
A PTA meeting is an opportunity where you can learn more about your child – how she is doing in school, what her strengths and weaknesses are, social skills, behavioral problems (if any) and so on. You also know what your child is capable of and so go prepared with your own queries/concerns which perhaps the teacher can help you with. As Gayatri Mukherjee, a teacher from Delhi, and mother of 2 kids herself points out, ”If you keep track of your kids through the week and the whole term, you will not be shocked by what is said at a PTA meeting.” She advises Indian moms and dads to use the parent teacher meeting as an avenue to address a problem the child might be facing. “If you as a parent know what the problem is, confide in the teacher and ask her if she can help you overcome it”
Madhu Sharma*, teacher at a prominent boarding school in Mussoorie advises parents to go to a PTA meeting with an open mind and be more relaxed as well. Many Indian moms and dads get defensive when a teacher points out something about the child. She says, “Parents should be more understanding and accept that their child may not be a topper.” Appreciate the fact that each child is different, do not compare children and never pressurise your child is how she sums it up. Have a broad outlook and remember that academics are not the only part of school life that your child can shine at. “Remember that your child is unique – if you as a parent were good in a certain game/subject, it does not mean that your child must be an ace at the same game/subject too. “Do not try to re-live your own life through your child” is how she signs off.
For a parent teaching meeting to be productive, the teacher’s role must be considered as well. The teacher spends a great deal of time with the child and often notices problems which a parent may not see. So if the teacher is pointing out some issues that are of concern to her, make it a point to sit up and listen. Sometimes, a teacher can see what the problem is, but the parent does not want to hear about it. For instance, a learning disability. Gayatri says, “In this case, it becomes difficult for the teacher to help the child unless steps are taken by the parents. “The teacher plays a very important role in a child’s development and it is essential that Indian moms and dads recognize this.”
Each school (and each teacher) has a different way of doing things. Do not compare your child’s school with another and wonder why she is not in the same league as her friend. If you have any queries about the way a certain subject is being taught as compared to another school, do bring it up at the parent teacher meeting.
In order to help the child, both parents and teachers must communicate effectively. At the first PTA meeting itself, ask the teacher when you can meet her – should it be on a particular day or after a particular period of time? Arti Bapat, freelance architect in Pune, and mother of twins, feels “Clarity and transparency in communication is essential to help foster a better relationship between parent and teacher and therefore the child.” Many a time, a child can bring home the wrong message and carry back a wrong one to the teacher as well. It is best to communicate directly with the teacher and what place better to do this, than at a PTA meeting?
It is important for both Indian moms and dads to work along with the teacher in order to further the child’s development. Collaborate to work towards the child’s progress. Once you do this, you are sure to see your child grow in leaps and bounds and do well in all spheres of school life. Ask the teacher what his strengths and weaknesses are and how you can improve them.
This is necessary if a PTA meeting is to bear fruit. Talk to your child after the parent teacher meeting. She will also be interested to know what the teacher said. Try and implement any ideas that the teacher might have given you and do follow up with the teacher on a regular basis. Most important, be positive and remember that both you and the teacher want what is best for the child.
*Names changed to protect privacy.
*Photo credit: itinerantobserver (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)
Melanie Lobo is a freelance writer. She grew up in cities across India but now
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