With a few weeks of classes, some athletic contests, and other extracurricular activities under students’ belts this fall, it’s time for parents to meet the school, see interim grades and comments, and examine and consider their student’s school life.

A considered approach can help make these brief introductions fruitful.  Given the brief nature of these meetings, we suggest some common principles when approaching these early parent-school introductions- whether it’s a boarding school parents’ weekend or parents’ night at a day school.

Foremost, commit to participating as thoroughly as time allows.  Attend everything- parents’ association meetings, concerts, choral performances, art exhibits, classroom visits, and athletic contests.  Immersing yourself in everything the school offers will help you build a picture of the totality and richness of the school community that you can use to foster and encourage your student’s new explorations.

Meet as many or all of your student’s teachers, friends, and friends’ parents as possible. From this, you can gain a feeling and understanding of your student’s life at school as well as build a picture of your child’s work and efforts that kids don’t often share with their parents.  You may also decide that you want to ask your child about certain situations and friendships.

Introduce yourself to the big three administrators, the academic dean, the dean of students, and the athletic director.  You may never have more than casual positive interactions with this group.  A casual early introduction allows everyone to put a name with a face so that when you need to call them or they need to call you, the foundations of a relationship are in place.

Interim grades and comments (almost always part of fall parent meetings) provide the starting point to open dialogs with teachers.  After reviewing your child’s grades and comments, ask not just “how” but also “what” your student is doing in class.  Do we see the growth of positive habits and relationships?  Or, do we have some concerns to address? 

Make sure to inform the faculty of anything they should know regarding your child.  I speak from experience when arguing that nothing is more frustrating to a teacher than a surprise that should not have been a surprise.  Extend complete support to the teacher with an open invitation to call whenever a concern might arise.  Preemptive concern, on everyone’s part, always trumps reaction.

Experiencing and gaining this complete picture by using planned events and meeting time will decrease one-on-one time with your student during the structured parts of the visit.  That’s fine.  Just as your student met and built relationships early in the year, it’s your turn during the fall the parent meetings.

These fall visits prove busy; it’s difficult to get everything done.  By no means do we suggest focusing only on the adults.  But, we do suggest some priorities in scheduling.  Beyond school priorities, take your student and family out to a quiet dinner.  Maybe run some errands.  See a movie.  Or, just a nice activity that your child might like to do or place that he/she would like to show you.  These are great opportunities to “just talk.”  Seek some of your child’s thoughts and reflections on the school year so far.

Students will often ask to bring a friend, or rendezvous with a friend’s family at meals and events; an event or two like this is great.  But, we also suggest some quiet time.

Support your child.  But, always stay mindful of the school.  Students often see parental visits as chance to bend the rules and challenge procedure from the safe cover of their parents.  Parents must help, support, and reinforce school processes.  Demonstrate a commitment to the school by attending events, staying for the duration, and not negotiating an exception for you student.  If you need to sign-out when leaving campus, then, by all means, sign-out.

Nothing sends a clearer and more supportive message to students than seeing parents and schools work together toward common goals.