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When should I ask for a parent-teacher conference, and how do I get the most from the conference?

Parent-teacher conferences give parents the opportunity to have an open conversation with their child's teacher. Conferences help parents to understand the teacher's expectations of both the parent and child. These conferences should generally last anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes. As a parent, you should ask for a conference with your child's teacher for the following reasons:

  • If you want to find out how your child is doing in school.

  • If there is a dramatic change in your child's behavior that lasts for an extended period of time.

  • If your child is having repeated problems with homework assignments.

  • If an unusual or difficult circumstance arises, including death, serious illness, or marital problems. Provide teachers with information that will allow them to assist your child.

  • If your child tells you that the teacher said or did something that you do not like.

  • If your child is going to be out of school for more than a couple of days.

Because the time for conferences is limited, be prepared with a list of concerns that you have regarding your child. Some other suggestions that will help make your parent-teacher conference a successful one include the following:

  • Talk with your child before you go. Share your child's issues with the teacher.

  • Ask how your child is doing in class. Find out how he/she interacts with other children and the teacher. Ask if he/she participates in class discussions.

  • Ask the teacher about future activities and how you can help.

  • Take notes during the conference, and ask questions about anything that is unclear.

  • Discuss your child's talents, skills, hobbies, and/or any special concerns you may have (i.e., weight, speech or learning difficulties).

  • Ask to see examples of successful work and compare it to your child's work. Listen to the teacher's comments on the work.

  • Follow up on what the teacher said by taking any recommended steps or appropriate action.

After the conference, share suitable information with your child. Positive feedback should be emphasized over the negative. Discuss the suggestions made by the teacher, and decide how you and your child can work together to improve and/or strengthen his/her performance. Set up a game plan, and act on it. Information gathered from the conference should give you a good idea about how your child is doing in school. As a parent, you can also take these additional steps to further evaluate how your child is doing in school:

  • Ask to see returned assignments. Track your child's progress on homework assignments and tests that have been graded and returned.

  • Read over progress reports and report cards thoroughly. Go over your child's report card with him/her. Discuss the comments made by the teacher with your child.

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