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How to get the most out of your parent-teacher conferences

Parent-teacher conferences, which typically occur twice per year, are designed to facilitate discussion between a student’s parents or guardians, and her teacher (or teachers). They occur at all levels of education, from pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade. The average parent-teacher conference is a mere 10-15 minutes in length, which can present a challenge when either parent or teacher—or both—has key information to share.

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But a great parent-teacher conference is possible. Parents and guardians can prepare for this appointment in several ways. Before your next parent-teacher conference, consider reading and implementing the following:

Review teacher-prepared materials

Just as each teacher structures his or her lessons in a unique manner, each instructor arranges his or her parent-teacher conferences differently. If your child has a single teacher (as is often the case at the elementary school level), you may have been asked to select a time slot for your meeting. If your student has multiple instructors (as is typical in high school), you may be free to move from subject to subject. Your child’s teacher may even have asked you to note any concerns in advance. In short, to ensure a smooth parent-teacher conference, review any informational materials you were given.

Identify your questions and concerns in advance

If your student’s instructor did not request that you share your concerns, take the time prior to your parent-teacher conference to write down your thoughts. The most productive conferences are a dialogue, but this can be understandably difficult to achieve in the limited time allotted to each conversation. Regardless of whether your child is excelling or struggling, consider outlining two or three items that you would like to discuss. Perhaps you would like more detail about the instructor’s homework policy, or maybe you hope to share a strategy that helps your student focus at home.

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Remain calm

From time to time, your child may have a teacher who she does not see eye to eye with—or who you do not see eye to eye with. A parent-teacher conference may seem like the perfect opportunity to air your concerns, but if you choose to do so, remember to keep calm. One of the most effective ways to help your student grow academically is to act as a team with her instructor, which means productively addressing issues so that you can work together. In many instances, the crux of the problem is simply a misunderstanding, rather than an intentional slight against your child.

Follow up with the teacher or teachers

In the weeks and months ahead, remain in contact with your student’s teacher. This is especially important if you provided techniques for the instructor to use in the classroom, or if you are experimenting with new strategies at home. Before you conclude your parent-teacher conference, ask your child’s teacher about the best way to get in touch with him or her. Then, provide any information or updates that you promised. This can equip you for an even better parent-teacher conference at the end of the school year. Good luck!

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