PTA: Practical Tips and Advice

November 19, 2020

PTA. A-three letter acronym that arouses some degree of anxiety in most parents. A big part of this anxiety is due to parents’ lack of clarity with regard to what they are meant to be doing during this few-minute meet and greet with the adult with whom their child spends a large part of their day. Following is a compilation of some basic tips to help you gain the most you can from this interaction.

The primary goal of PTA should be to figure out what can be done to improve your child’s learning and overall school experience. Every aspect of the conversation should be focused on this point.

  • Be sure to get a feeling for what the educational goals are for your child this year. You should walk out of the room feeling knowledgeable enough to be able to later assess whether your child is reaching those goals. Additionally, you should have a basic outline of the curriculum intended to be covered by year’s end. Any inquiries you have regarding school policy should be raised and resolved.
  • Does your child have any specific feelings about the classroom and the teacher that you feel are appropriate to discuss with the teacher? This can include anything as minute as the seating arrangement or the name they prefer to be called by, or it can be more delicate and complex, such as teaching methods and the degree of teacher-student interaction in the classroom. It is worthwhile to know what your child likes/dislikes about the teacher’s personality and style in advance so that you can judge if these are imaginary or real. If you notice that the teacher indeed has a more serious personality, for instance, you will be able to guide your child who could be having a difficult time adjusting to the teacher’s rigidity. Alternatively, you might be pleasantly surprised to discover that the impression your child has of the teacher is not as severe as they make it out to be.
  • Understanding the teacher’s language is of utmost importance. Teachers often find themselves in the uncomfortable position of informing the parent of an issue that their child struggles with and therefore choose to use vague terms. Be sure you understand what your child’s teacher means. For instance, the teacher might say “I feel your child is having a difficult time adjusting.” Do not just leave it at that. Request more specifics. Is the child struggling with comprehension? Is their reading level below that of their classmates? Perhaps there is a behavioral issue?
  • Anything that is going on at home that might affect the child’s behavior in class should be raised. The same is true about details of the child’s personality that you feel comfortable sharing with the teacher. For example, “My son is extremely bashful. From past experience, I think calling on him during class could encourage him to participate more” can be worthwhile sharing. Additionally, be your child’s advocate and point out strengths that the teacher may not be aware of. If your daughter is a slow reader but has an excellent knack for art, let the teacher know so she can encourage her to shine in the area in which she will most likely do best.
  • The time that you were allotted to speak to your child’s teacher should not be used to argue, debate, or cajole. Do not lecture the teacher or even dictate to them how they should be doing their job. In general, try to avoid long-winded conversations during this time. This is meant to be a pleasant, short meeting. If you feel there are issues you would like to discuss with the teacher regarding your child’s chinuch, request an appointment for a later, more opportune time.
  • Criticism: Don’t we all wish it wouldn’t exist? In the event that the teacher does raise a concern about your child, do not get defensive. Be ready to accept the truth even if it means hearing something negative about your child. Listen and take note. Ask the teacher for any constructive advice or recommendations for how you can work together to solve the issue.
  • You may be kept waiting for your turn. Use that time well. Try engaging other parents in conversation and see who the parents of your child’s friends are. See if they have any tips for how to manage after school hours with things such as homework, activities, and projects.

With siyata d’Shmaya,may you all have a pleasant experience and use this interaction as a springboard for the further success of your child throughout the year.