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Parent-Teacher Conference Tips

How to Score an A+ at Your Parent-Teacher Conference

Here's a post from our partners at BabyCenter! Every week, we bring you the best parenting and lifestyle stories from the experts at BabyCenter, including this one about attending parent-teacher conferences.
October is conference time in our neck of the woods. My parents are retired teachers. My sister is a third grade teacher. Suffice it to say I have heard lots of funny stories about parent-teacher conferences. From what I gather, 90 percent of the parents who attend conferences are lovely, and the remaining 10 percent are total wackos.
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My family's stories about crazy parents who called them horrible names, brought their attorneys to the conference, and/or offered to bribe them in exchange for good grades had me a little nervous to begin attending my own conferences a few years ago. What on earth could be discussed that was so controversial? Should I prepare questions? Opening and closing statements? (Kidding . . . kind of.) Now, I have a few years of conferences under my belt. I've made some mistakes (oh, I was supposed to sign up for a time?) and have learned a few things about making them successful:

  1. Go. Seriously, sign up for your time and go. It's a pain to get off work, get a babysitter, etc., but every year a handful of parents don't show up. You need to go to the conference, even for your preschooler. Your child's teacher has prepared for it, and it is the only time you will get a block of time focused entirely on your child. How can you turn that down?
  2. Don't ever let the conference be the first time you are checking in with your child's teacher. (Even if your kiddo is very smart and well-behaved.) I have one supersmart, rule-abiding kid and another for whom the jury is still out, but both of their teachers always get a quick visit from me during the first week to discuss my kids' fears, strengths, and weaknesses. I also want to find out how they're adjusting, making friends, etc. No matter when you choose to check in, don't wait until October to do it — too much time will have passed, and you'll kick yourself if there's something you might have been doing differently.
  3. Do not freak out about standardized test scores. I repeat, DO NOT freak out about test scores. Most school districts will use parent-teacher conferences to discuss your child's standardized test scores. They might be really good. (This does not mean your child is a genius.) They might be really bad. (This does not mean your child is dumb.) I can honestly tell you I have a child that scored in the 99th percentile and a child that scored in the 5th percentile, and both scores are part of a much larger puzzle that determines their actual abilities. Take the test scores with a grain of salt, especially for the younger kids. (Hello, sweetie. Was your computer even on?)
  4. Tell your teacher in advance if you have specific questions/concerns you want to discuss. This allows the teacher to be able to think through possible solutions first and invite anyone else to the conference who might be helpful. We've been to conferences where the gifted program coordinator was included, as well as speech and language therapists. All were tremendously helpful. If you give the teacher time to think first, it's more likely you'll make some progress during the conference.
  5. Figure out what's really important to you, aside from academics, and ask about it every time. There's always a big emphasis on grades and scores during conferences, and rightly so, but I'm expecting my kids to leave each grade level more than just a little smarter. In our family, we feel strongly about raising kids with kindness and compassion, so I always make sure to ask how the kids are doing in those areas. Another mom I know always asks about overcoming shyness, and yet another asks about giving her child the space to think outside the box. Different things are important to different families. Figure out what yours is, and ask about it.

What tips do you have for parent-teacher conferences?

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