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10 Tips for Maximizing Parent-Teacher Conferences


Parent-teacher conferences. Those three words make many parents nervous. It's understandable: Parents fear hearing the worst about their child's progress and performance, and teachers can sometimes be intimidating. Here are ten strategies to help you rid yourself of any preconference anxiety and make the meeting a productive step toward your child's education.

1. Come on time, and don't stay past your allotted time. The teacher has all the other parents to meet with in tightly scheduled time blocks. If you are late, your session may be shortened. Consider this conference the first installment in your ongoing contact with the teacher.

2. Make a list of things you want to discuss with the teacher, and number your list from most to least important so that you cover the more pressing topics first. If you rely on your memory, you may forget what you planned to say. Take along your child's homework or report card to document your concerns.

3. Introduce yourself and begin with a smile and a genuine compliment; don't assume the teacher knows who you are. A smile will set both your minds at ease. You may not realize that teachers are often just as nervous as you are about conferences! So find something nice to say about the classroom environment or a special subject your child talks about. For example, "Hi, I'm Tina's mother and she's been telling me how much she loves the science experiments you do in class."

4. Look the teacher in the eye and be ready to listen. Let him direct the conversation; the information he shares may answer some of your questions. Be sure to ask the teacher to explain anything you don't understand, especially if he begins using educational jargon that's not familiar to you. Remember, if the teacher is talking about a topic on your list but you still have a question, now is the time to ask it. Take a pen and paper along to jot down things to tell your child or spouse later.