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Tips for Better School Conferences

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Like fame, parent-teacher meetings can be fleeting. To make the most of your 15 minutes:

* Bring a list of questions. Need to discuss your child's math difficulties or a sticky social situation? Jot down your concerns beforehand so you don't forget them when you're on the spot.

* Be open-minded. You may be surprised by some of the teacher's observations, but try to be receptive. Realize that your child may behave differently at home than at school, says Marjorie Hancock, a professor of elementary education at Kansas State University in Manhattan, KS. Ask for examples: What do you mean when you say my child plays rough during recess?

* Leave with take-home tips. Pick the teacher's brain for test-taking tips, homework-help ideas, or ways to improve your child's social life.

* Follow up with a report  -- to your kid. Some schools include students in conferences, but if yours doesn't, tell your child what was said about him (including praise!).

How to translate teacher talk
When the teacher says: Your child isn't working to her potential. 
She means: She's doing as little as possible to get by.

She says: We need to place emphasis on her social skills and relationships.
She means: Your child has difficulty making friends.

She says: Study skills need to be reinforced at home.
She means: Please help your child prepare for tests. She isn't able to do it on her own.

She says: Your child is a passive learner.
She means: "She rarely gets involved in class and leaves discussions to the other students."

She says: She's a struggling reader.
She means: With help and lots of practice, she can progress to reading at grade level.

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