Tips for effective parent-teacher conferences

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Mid-October is time for report cards and parent-teacher conferences. Most district schools will open their doors to welcome parents in to pick up report cards and speak with teachers about students’ progress on the following dates:

Monday, October 12 – High School
Tuesday, October 13 – Middle School
Thursday, October 15 – Elementary School

Parents should call schools to confirm the conference dates and times and plan to participate in this critical opportunity to exchange valuable information with teachers.

Parent-teacher conferences give parents the opportunity to ask questions about what their children are learning and how to reinforce learning at home. Parents can help teachers understand how to reach their child and provide valuable insight about learning differences or special interests. The better a teacher and parent work as a team, the more students benefit.

As with any important meeting, some time spent in preparation can help ensure it goes smoothly. Here are a few tips:

  • Before the conference, talk with your student to get his or her take on what’s going well and any areas that need work. Including students in the process can help them share responsibility for their learning and help parents focus on what’s important to the student.
  • Bring a list of questions to help you focus the conversation. List them in order of priority in case time runs out. If only one parent can attend the conference, be sure to ask your spouse for suggestions.

For the sake of the parent-teacher alliance, Sarah Zumwalt Middle School teacher Toni Harrison-Kelly advises parents to always present a united front with the teacher, even if disagreements arise.

“Be sure to disagree respectfully and not in front of the student.   Parents and teachers are partners in educating each child.  You do not want hard feelings or resentment to enter into your partnership,” she said.  “You especially do not want to undermine each other’s authority in any way.  Teenagers are smart enough to play parents and teachers against each other.  Show your child that you and the teacher are on the same page.”

Harrison-Kelly also advises parents to ask their child’s teachers for the most important things students need to do to earn a top grade. To gauge students’ social and emotional development, consider inquiring about how students are behaving with peers and whether they seem to fit in.

Parents of high school students may want to focus on other issues. Here are three suggestions from teacher Terri Everett at James Madison High School:

  • What are the required courses for high school graduation, and is my child on track?
  • Which STAAR exams are needed for a student to meet the testing requirement, and what is the passing score for each?
  • If a student does not do well on the SAT or ACT for college entry, what others things do colleges look at to determine if a student is considered “college ready?”
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