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Want your kids to Value their Education? Show Up! Part One: Parent/Teacher Conferences

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It seems like just yesterday we were talking about preparing our children for the new school year and now in a blink of an eye, we see the leaves changing and the calendar has been set to November.

November is packed full of events to keep our students, teachers, and parents busy. We have Veteran’s Day celebration and Thanksgiving holidays to celebrate with our families. Holiday decorations, naughty or nice jokes, holiday gift advertisements, holiday parades and community events for our children will build up anticipation for holidays yet to come. With all of this excitement building within our children, we have to remember to keep supporting them academically and continue to gently push them to their fullest potential.

The first nine weeks grading period has ended in most of our local school districts, and all of the students have participated in some form of benchmark assessment to assist the teachers in measuring their student’s academic growth throughout the year. At parent/teacher conferences parents have the opportunity to view these reports and discuss with the teacher ways to help support their child at home.

As parents, we all want our children to be successful and comfortable within their learning environment. To ensure that success, parent/teacher conferences are one of the many vehicles to direct us to our goal.

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When attending your parent/teacher conference, be prepared with questions that you have at this point in the school year. Make sure suggestions that a teacher might have to improve your child’s performance in the classroom is documented. Speak to your child before the conference to hear their concerns about their classroom experience. Be willing to share information about your child that might help the teacher adjust their teaching style to reach him or her. At the end of the conference, come up with a game plan to continue to support your child’s success and to promote further achievement.

Several questions to ask the teacher in your conference might include the following. What can I do at home to help my child have more success while in school? Is my child having trouble with a particular subject? How does the grading system work? How is my child doing socially? If my child needs extra help, what does the school offer? Teachers appreciate these types of questions and are willing to support parents in aiding the success of their child.

Tips for parents:

  1. Show Up! Whether you have a scheduled time to meet with your child’s teacher or a time frame to visit, make sure you are prompt and are willing to support the teacher in educating your child. Elementary schools have a high success rate of parent participation, but the middle and high school levels tend to drop off. Parents have to remember that students of the middle and high school age have not only academics to worry about, but they are maturing into young adults who value peer acceptance more so than teacher and parent approval. This is a time to really get a handle on how they are acting in the classroom and if they are making the right choices.

  2. Give your full attention during this valuable time. Parent/teacher conferences are in time slots, so make sure your attention is devoted to the discussion about your child. Please make sure all electronic devices are turned off and you are ready to work as part of the team to educate your child.

  3. Do your homework! Make sure you are aware of your child’s homework habits, current grades and where you notice your child struggling. Prepare questions you might have for the teacher. This is a time to compare notes to make sure the performance in school is matching what is happening at home during study time. Teachers love parent involvement as long as it is a team effort.

  4. Teachers can not discuss other children. As a parent, you might always be watching out for what kind of kids your child is hanging out with or who they work with in the classroom. Teachers have the obligation of confidentiality and can not discuss the behaviors, academics, family dynamics, etc. of another child, so don’t ask. This time is about your child.

  5. Teachers are responsible for your child’s academics. Education prepares all students for adulthood. Education is one aspect of a child developing into a well-rounded individual. Teachers are always taking notice to ensure a child's health, safety and welfare while in school, but they are not completely raising your child. Please do not take offense to that prior comment, but a percentage of parents feel that teachers are to introduce values, respect, hygiene and discipline when in reality that should start at infancy and be built during a child’s toddler years up until they enroll in kindergarten. Teachers will support and remind students of their “manners” and support character education, but laying that foundation is the responsibility of the parents. Teachers have a lot on their plate to make sure that a student is academically ready to move to the next grade level, so support at home is key.

  6. Your child has multiple influences while at school. Not only is your child’s teacher influential, but other adults in the building are as well. It is okay to talk to the support staff, paraprofessionals, secretaries, and other teachers because they all have interactions with your child throughout the day. Remember that they also have to be confidential about talking about other kids, but they might shed some light on your child’s academics and behaviors throughout the school day.

  7. Have a follow-up conversation with your child. Naturally, a child is going to be nervous at parent/ teacher time because they are in the dark about what will be discussed. Share the positives discussed at the meeting and then point out little things that they can improve on. No one is perfect, so let them know it is okay to make mistakes as long as they learn from them.

Ultimately, a parent/teacher conference enables a teacher to touch base with families to discuss a game plan to facilitate a child’s all-around success. Every child learns differently. The worst thing you could do as a parent is to compare your child to another. Your child is unique - so support their strengths and offer support with their frustrations. Mark your calendars now because nothing is more important than your child and parent/teacher meetings are a MUST!

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