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November 24, 2017

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How parents can maximize their time with the teacher

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Steve Marcus

First grade teacher Charlie Lockwood talks with his student Angel Rosales, his mother Fabiola and his sister Marisol during a parent-teacher conference at Lois Craig Elementary School in North Las Vegas Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013.

Teachers and advocates say parents who prepare for school conferences stand the best chance of building a positive and productive relationship with their child’s teacher. Research also shows that parental involvement is the most important factor in a student’s educational success.

“Know that we want you there,” said Lisa Medina, principal of Monaco Middle School in Las Vegas. “We need you.”

With most parent-teacher conferences lasting only 15 to 30 minutes, how can you make the most out of your time with your child’s teacher? Read on.

Talk to your child first

Ask your child how he or she is doing in class, what happens during lunch and recess and if he or she has any concerns. Try to find out both the positive and the negative, and ask your children to identify their own strengths and weaknesses.

Explain that the goal of the meeting is to help the child

At Monaco Middle School, students actually take part in the conferences. They lead three talking sessions with their parents each year, during which they evaluate their performance, set goals and propose solutions to problems.

Raise problems first

Be direct about any concerns you may have but don’t be antagonistic. View the teacher as your partner.

At the same time, however, don’t wait for parent-teacher conferences to discuss problems. Approach school officials immediately with any issues you or your child are having.

Bring a family calendar

Many times, schools can arrange tutoring or other services on the spot. Having a calendar with you can help avoid conflicts with work schedules, practices or lessons.

Come with questions

Monaco Middle School Learning Strategist Kathleen Peña says the most important question a parent can ask is: How can I help?

Also ask:

• How much time your child should be spending on homework

• How the teacher evaluates student work

• What your child will learn this year

• What your child does well

• What areas your child can improve

Academic performance is crucial, but don’t overlook behavior and attention span, said Katia Cheetany, a fifth-grade teacher at Vanderburg Elementary School in Henderson.

Remember, it’s an open conversation

“We don’t just want the teacher talking,” Cheetany said.

Be sure to let the teacher know about what’s going on in your child’s life away from school, such as his or her hobbies, athletics or part-time job. Share with the teacher information about any major family upheavals, such as illnesses or deaths, a job loss or divorce.

Think in terms of solutions

Avoid getting angry, apologetic or defensive if the teacher raises an academic or behavioral problem. Instead, use “I feel” statements, Medina suggested. Ask what strategies seem to be working, and suggest solutions of your own.

“The more positive the parent is, the more successful results we’re going to have,” Cheetany said.

Develop an action plan

Take notes during the meeting. Make a plan with the teacher, with each of you committing to offer specific types of support.

Set up a process for monitoring progress, and make an appointment for a follow-up meeting, if necessary. Find out how the teacher likes to communicate, whether by email, phone or notes.

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