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Focus on Education

Parent/Teacher conferences a time for learning

With the loss of the leaves on the aspen trees and the growing gold on the tamaracks, November begins its time on stage in our schools. It features harvest fairs, school auctions, Veterans’ Day celebrations, Thanksgiving and parent conferences. For those of us working with your children, conferences are significant events. We look forward to meeting with parents to share good news regarding their children but also to share concerns so school performance can be improved. It is a great opportunity for us, as partners, to help your child.

You can help make these conferences more effective by following some simple guidelines. Here are some that I feel are extremely important:

Attend the Conference:  Attending the conference sends a very clear message to your child that you care about their progress in school. They want you to meet their teacher and they want to be the center of that discussion. If you cannot attend the conference, let both your child and your child’s teacher know in advance. Then schedule the conference at the nearest time available the following week. Typically, over 90 percent of our parents attend the conference.

Ask Questions in Advance: Email or call your child’s teacher in advance to let them know what you would like to talk about. Teachers want to answer your questions. If you don’t share your concerns in advance, your child’s teacher will only be guessing at what you might want to know. It also saves valuable time at the conference for both of you.

Be on Time: Please don’t forget that other parents have scheduled appointments as well. Arrive at least five minutes early and exit at the end of the appointed time. If the time allotted doesn’t meet your needs, schedule another opportunity to meet with your child’s teacher at a later date. Remember, if you run late you disrupt the conference for another parent.

Listen: Time is short. Use the time to listen as opposed to telling stories about your school experience. Remember, this time is about your child and their progress.

Debrief: Your child will be curious about what his/her teacher shared. Share this information in a calm manner, particularly if you heard some information that concerns you. Celebrate the positive with a toast at dinner and calmly set goals around the shortcomings. Check those goals regularly with both your student and teacher. Remember to remind your student that effort and good behavior are important to you.

Follow Up: Don’t be shy about following up with your child’s teacher regarding the goals you have set. In fact, it is a good idea for both of you to meet with the teacher together at a later date to share the goals. Your child’s teacher can provide assistance and encouragement.

Enjoy Your Child: Remember, there are very few perfect children. Recognize that your child will have some success as well as areas of challenge. Celebrate their unique style and understand their schooling is a life long experience.

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Author info

Dick Cvitanich Dick Cvitanich is the Superintendent of Schools for the Lake Pend Oreille School District. He has been an educator for 33 years, and became superintendent for LPOSD in 2006. He was educated at the University of Washington where he earned a BA in History and a Superintendent's Credential. He has been married to Diane for 32 years and they have raised three sons who "taught us as much as we taught them." "I have a passion for public education and the role it plays in our democracy. In my free time I read, ski ... come to think of it, I don't have that much free time."

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