Sunday, October 13, 2013

Parent-teacher conferences can be stressful

            Parent-teacher conferences can be valuable for parents and teachers alike, and often benefit students. It’s no surprise that children whose parents are involved in their education generally do better in the classroom. Teachers will tell you that communication with parents is crucial in helping their child succeed and solid research data support this observation. Anecdotally I have noticed that in those areas where participation in parent-teacher conferences is high, drop-out rate is low and vice versa. (Someone should test this observation more scientifically.)

            If we can agree that conferences are a good thing for the teacher, parent, and student, why are they often stressful for all three? A middle school teacher in East Lansing, Michigan, completed her doctoral dissertation at Michigan State on stress in the middle grades teacher. She calculated the daily consumption of coffee, alcohol, and tobacco over a given period of time in a sample of teachers, and also got a daily self report of life satisfaction, job satisfaction, etc. from her subjects. As a member of her committee, I wasn’t surprised by many of her findings: More seasoned teachers and those with good social support systems were less stressed, days just before holidays and before the summer recess were high stress days, etc. But one finding did surprise me, namely, that a very high stress level occurred on the days just prior to parent-teacher conferences: more booze, more cigarettes, more coffee, and often a feeling of dread, what psychologists call generalized anxiety.

            Why would that be? I’ll mention Ginny’s interpretations in my next blog as well as I can remember them. But first I’d like to hear from you, parents and teachers, and yes, students. I’m wondering if you have some ideas about why parent-teacher conferences sometimes cause stress. Comment below (anonymously, if you prefer). Thanks and thanks for visiting my blog.


  1. Parents often are only familiar with the teachers through their children' self-reports. Teachers often know nothing about the parents. Meeting for the first time is always stressful. This angst can be reduced by opening communication up at the beginning of the school year and not just at the parent-teacher conference night--just a thought.

  2. I have increased stress with teacher's who do not seem to want to engage with me (the parent) during the school year and I have found that the closer I feel to the teacher and vise versa--the easier parent/teacher conferences are--other why's I wonder why calls, emails, etc. go ignored and I wonder what the teacher is thinking towards me --which causing increased stress--I suppose this overlaps to my children as they witness the exchange's between teacher and parent as either positive or negative--I do think that there is a hand in hand trade off --if the relationship is positive during the year with the parent and teacher--a positive feeling is displayed in going to parent teacher conferences by all parties affected--however, if there is a sense of dread in any communication between any party at parent/teacher conferences--this leads to feeling very stressed in going to the conference and is likely felt by the teacher and student as well.