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The parent-teacher conference: Maximize the meeting

Whether your child is in preschool or high school, parent-teacher conferences are important. These meetings help you get to know your child's teacher, discuss her performance and determine her strengths and weaknesses in various subject areas. Here are a few suggestions to help you make the most of your conference.

Try to be on time
Teachers usually schedule a certain amount of time for each conference and if you are late, your conference will need to be cut short or another parent may be left waiting. Make sure you have the time correct and make firm babysitting and transportation arrangements as necessary.

Share information about your child with the teacher
You do not have to reveal private matters, but it is important to share things with the teacher that might affect your child's performance or behavior, such as health concerns, or divorce or death in the family. This information will be held in confidence, and released only to other caregivers, such as a principal or substitute teacher. These educators are also obligated to hold private information in confidence.

Make a list
Write down any questions you want to ask the teacher, before the conference. For example, you want to ask if there are any problems with your child's performance or behavior, and find out what you can do at home to help resolve the problem. You might want to know what your child's favorite subjects are, as well as her strengths and weaknesses. Is she achieving according to her abilities? Does she participate well in the classroom? Does she get along well with her classmates? Are there examples of your child's work available for you to see?

Listen carefully
Pay close attention as the teacher tells you how your child is progressing. If there are problems with your child's performance, find out what you can do at home to help resolve the problem. If the teacher indicates that your child is behaving inappropriately in the classroom, find out the specifics. You will want to know when, how often and under what circumstances the behavior occurs. Ask what measures have already been taken to correct the behavior and what you can do to help.

After the conference, talk with your child
Let her know about some of the things that were discussed and about any plans for improving her performance or behavior in the classroom. Keep a positive demeanor and attitude. Allow your child the means to feel good about herself and her abilities.

Follow up the meeting
Keep in touch with the teacher, follow through on any agreements you made, and monitor your youngster's progress.

Support the school
If possible, volunteer in the classroom or at the school. This may be difficult if you work, or have other conflicting obligations. Sometimes there are ways to help after school hours, such as assisting with after hours care, tutorial centers or sports activities.

Remember, sharing and working together is what conferences are all about. The teacher only has a short time to tell you about your child's progress in her class, so it is important to plan ahead. Don't get nervous. Relax, smile and pretend that you are going to talk with a friend -- because you are!

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