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Syndicated column from The Parent Institute

[MARCH 2, 2006]  Q: My son's elementary school has scheduled parent-teacher conferences this month. I always feel a bit intimidated when I attend these conferences and don't feel that much gets accomplished. Do you have any tips for making this successful?

A: Preparation is the key to a successful conference. Before you attend the conference, spend time thinking about what you want to say or questions to ask, so you can make the most of the time. Be sure your child knows you are having a conference. Ask him what he thinks you and the teacher should discuss. Following are some points to keep in mind:

Make a list of things you want to tell your son's teacher. These may include your son's favorite subjects, any difficulties he might be having in school, special needs or sensitive issues (weight, shyness, etc.) or his after-school activities. You can also help his teacher by sharing information like, "Patrick remembers things better if he hears them than if he just reads them."

Write down any questions you may want to ask your son's teacher. You might ask about grades, homework, attitude and behavior in the classroom, strengths, weaknesses, or test scores. Perhaps your son didn't start his science fair project until the night before it was due. Ask the teacher to give you an outline of what will be covered during the rest of the grading period so you have plenty of advance warning for long-term projects. Don't just ask, "How's Patrick doing?" Try to make your questions as specific as possible. For example:

  • Does my son read at the level you would expect for his grade?

  • Is my son working up to his ability in math?

  • Does my son get along well with the other students in the class?

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Start the conference on a positive note. Both you and your son's teacher want to do what's best for him. Use the lists you've prepared of things you (and your son) want to tell the teacher and questions you want to ask. Don't forget to ask to see your son's work. There's no better way to see how your child is progressing than to look at his school work.

Ask for suggestions. If your son is doing well, ask what you can do to keep things on a positive track. If there are problems, ask for suggestions of things you can do at home. Clarify and summarize as you go. Teachers sometimes use educational buzz words. If you don't understand something the teacher says, just ask.

Talk over the results of the conference with your son. Share the good things the teacher said. Discuss any ideas for improvement. Plan to follow up with the teacher.

[The Parent Institute]

For more information about helping children learn or to submit your own question, go to All questions will receive a prompt answer by e-mail.

Copyright 2006, The Parent Institute

"Ask the Learning Advisor -- Ideas for Raising Successful Children" is a free, syndicated column from the Parent Institute.

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