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10 Tips for Maximizing Parent-Teacher Conferences

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8. Take advantage of the opportunity to meet with your child's teacher early in the year. At the conference, give her your telephone number and the best times to reach you, or perhaps your e-mail address. In fact, sending occasional notes during the year keeps you in touch with the teacher and shows that you care about your child's education. Most teachers appreciate the contact with parents and may even write back. Once you've met the teacher face-to-face, telephone and e-mail contact is easier and can yield better results. But be sure you don't become a nuisance to the teacher or take over your child's responsibilities. Ultimately, it is your child's job to know what the homework is and when the tests are.

9. Volunteer to share your skills in the classroom. Even if you work or have a busy schedule, don't assume that you have nothing to bring to the classroom. There are many ways for parents to be involved:

  • Be a guest speaker or find one. You can easily talk about your own job or a hobby; or you may know someone interesting who can speak to the class about a relevant topic.
  • Invite the class to visit your place of work. If you work in a store, let them come see how the business is run. If you work in a hospital, give them a tour of the pediatrics ward.
  • Offer to chaperone the class on a field trip. If you work, take a day or half-day of vacation. You'll enjoy it  -- and you'll get a chance to see your child in a whole new light.
  • Help with the class newsletter. If you are a working parent, share the job with a committee so that you have do it only once or twice a year. (And let your child help, too!)
  • Be an at-home tutor. If your child needs tutoring in reading and your friend's child needs math help, swap kids for one or two hours a week. A child often learns better with someone other than a parent, and parents have different strengths to share.
  • Send ethnic foods to the classroom. Prepare something that is special to your family  -- egg rolls, blintzes, or baklava  -- or, let your child bring in an unusual vegetable or fruit for a holiday celebration or to fit a special unit of study.

10. End with a thank-you. Instead of rehashing your concerns or your child's problems, thank the teacher for her time and conclude with a genuine pledge of support. You may want to say something like, "Now that I understand the things you're doing in the classroom, I'll be able to help more at home. I know we both have my child's best interests at heart, and I want to work with you to help him succeed." Ending the conference on a positive note leaves you both feeling that you are partners in helping your child learn and succeed in school.

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