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Whether your child is having a positive or negative experience in school, it’s important to make the most of your parent-teacher conference. Here are tips to help you and the teacher work together toward success for your child at parent-teacher conferences.

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Talk with your child before the conference.

Ask your child what his strongest and weakest subjects are. Which subjects does he like most and least? Ask him if he’d like you to speak about anything particular with the teacher. Make sure he understands that you and the teacher are meeting to help him, so that he doesn’t worry about the conference.

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Prepare notes.

Make a list of topics you want to discuss with the teacher and that you think the teacher should know. This includes your concerns about the school, any major changes in your family, your child’s habits, hobbies, part-time jobs, religious holidays and anything that’s worrying your child. Be sure to ask for input from your spouse or partner as well as from other adults who are caring for your child.

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Prepare questions.

Preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time with the teacher. Prioritize the questions in case you run out of time during the conference. Download a printable list you can bring with you.

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Be on time.

Start off right—get to the conference on time. Remember that other parents may also have conferences scheduled for that day. If you arrive late, you may have missed your conference altogether. And plan on ending the conference at the scheduled time so that other parents can start their conference on time.

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Be yourself.

Relax and be yourself. Remember that you and the teacher both the want the same thing: to help your child.

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Stay calm.

Stay calm during the conference. Respectful communication will be the most effective way to work together with your child’s teacher. Getting angry or upset during the conference will make it difficult to have a productive conversation.

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Ask for explanations of anything you don’t understand.

Listen carefully to what the teacher says. If you don’t understand something the teacher talks about (like an educational term or an explanation of a school policy), don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. It’s important to understand what your child’s teacher is telling you.

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Ask important questions first.

Ask the most important questions early in the conference. Otherwise, you may run out of time, especially if other parents are waiting to have their conference after yours. You can always schedule another meeting with the teacher to talk about any points you didn’t get to cover.

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Respectfully discuss differences of opinion.

If you disagree with the teacher, respectfully explain why you disagree. If you don’t let the teacher know about your differences of opinion, she may think you agree and will move on to the next topic. Discussing your differences may help both of you find a more effective way to help your child.

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Create an action plan.

Work together to create an action plan that involves you, the teacher, your child and other key people like tutors or therapists. The plan should include specific suggestions of ways you can help at home.

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Thank the teacher for meeting with you.

Thank the teacher for her time and support of your child, as well as for anything specific she’s done to help your child.

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Talk with your child after the conference.

In general, it’s best not to bring your child to the meeting. Talking about sensitive behavioral issues could embarrass him, and technical or complicated topics might confuse him. The teacher will be able to speak more freely if he’s not in the room. After the meeting, tell him what you discussed. Emphasize the positive points, but be direct about problems. If you and the teacher created an action plan, explain it to your child. Make sure your child understands that you and the teacher created this plan to help him.

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Start working on the action plan.

Set the action plan in motion. To ensure that it’s working, regularly check progress reports on your child’s behavior and schoolwork. Many teachers use an online grading program so parents can see up-to-the-minute information on academic progress. The action plan should also include a way for you to get updates on your child’s behavior. After a few weeks, review the plan with the teacher. Asking your child is also key. If something isn’t working, he may be able to provide some insights to you and the teacher.

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Keep in touch with the teacher.

Stay in touch with your child’s teacher. This will help you strengthen the parent-teacher partnership and will be an important part of your child’s success in school. When he sees his parents and teachers are working together, he’ll understand that his well-being is a top priority at school and at home.

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About the Author

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Reading Rockets, Understood Founding Partner looks at how young children learn to read, why so many kids struggle, and how we can help them succeed.

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Jenn Osen-Foss, M.A.T., is an instructional coach, supporting teachers in using differentiated instruction, interventions and co-planning.

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