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Making the Most of Parent-Teacher Conferences

No matter what grade your child is in this year, you’ll probably find yourself attending parent teacher conferences. Whether you’re a first timer or an old pro, we think the tips that follow will help you make the most of the time you spend with your child’s teacher(s) this year.

The Basics: As with any other appointment or meeting, you’ll make the best impression when you arrive prepared and on time (or early!).

Be open-minded: your child’s teacher sees a different side of your child at school than you do at home, and he or she may have feedback that surprises you.

Have a good attitude. Remember that parent teacher conferences are a constructive opportunity, and that may mean that you receive unexpected or negative feedback on your child’s behavior or grades. Listen to what the teacher has to share, and then focus together on formal or informal improvement plans.

Do Your Homework: Your son or daughter’s teacher will invest time and energy into planning his or her conference with you, and we encourage you to do the same.

Scholastic recommends compiling a folder — beginning on the first day of the academic year or semester — of your child’s grades, informal reviews, larger project or homework scores, and any other notes or feedback you’ve received from the school.

The national Parent Teacher Association also recommends making a list of questions, concerns, and subjects for discussion. Thing to consider include school-based topics like grades, but can also include behavioral, social or personal topics that are relevant to your child’s performance.

Does your child have a special talent, hobby, or extra-curricular activity that might affect his or her motivations, energy levels, or focus at school? Maybe your son competes on the weekends in martial arts tournaments or your daughter spends hours at night writing computer code. If your child has special talents, interests, or hobbies, consider sharing them with his or her teacher.

Finally, family dynamics and life changes (divorce, death of a family member or beloved pet, etc.) can affect a child’s school experience, and most teachers would like to know if those circumstances are part of the bigger picture of your child’s mental and physical health and well being.

Ongoing Communication: Don’t be shy! Ask your child’s teacher what his or her preferred communication style is and how the two of you can stay in touch moving forward. From periodic phone calls or emails to formal improvement plans, you can have a truly positive impact on your child’s education.

Extra Credit: For extra credit, drop your son or daughter’s teacher a thank you note after your conference.

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