Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013

Program helps parents understand parent-teacher conferences

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Parent-teacher conferences don’t have to be intimidating if you know what to do. For Fort Benning parents, the Military Child Education Coalition’s Parent to Parent program has workshops to help parents with their uncertainties. On Thursday at Wilson Elementary School, MCEC offered tips and guidance for parents on the ins and outs of parent-teacher conferences.

Jennifer Boal, part of Fort Benning’s Parent to Parent team, said children whose parents are involved in their education attend school more regularly and perform better than those who don’t — regardless of income or background.

“They think it’s important, because they see you involved in it,” said Amy Kowatch of the Fort Benning Parent to Parent team. “So the earlier in the child’s education process parent involvement begins, the more powerful those effects are — no matter what the age. If they are in school, show that it is important to go to school … because you care and you are there.”

Parent-teacher conferences also help parents build rapport with their teachers, Kowatch said.

“It’s a good idea if you are transitioning during the school year … to request a conference with the school that you are leaving so you can tie up loose ends,” Boal said. “But it’s also a good idea to schedule a short conference with that new teacher at the new school because it gives you the opportunity (to catch up on) how their classroom operates (and) how the school operates.”

A conference with the new teacher allows the parent to update the teacher on what their child was doing at their previous school, Boal said.

Here are some things the program suggests you can do to make parent-teacher conferences productive: Before the conference:

•Talk to your child about any issues that you are concerned about and ask for his or her input for the conference. •For children in upper elementary school include them in the conference if possible. •Make a list about your child’s life at home, personality, problems, habits, and hobbies you feel are important for the teacher to know. •List your concerns about the school’s programs or policies. •Gather sample work to bring. At the conference: •Begin with positive comments about the teacher or classroom. •Let the teacher begin the discussion. •Avoid lengthy discussions of topics that are unrelated to the purpose of the conference. •Be aware of the time and make an appointment for follow up if there are parents waiting and your time is up. •Be open-minded to suggestions from the teacher. •Keep your emotions under control. •Develop measurable goals with the teacher and have a plan for follow up. After the conference: •Discuss the conference and action plan with your child. •Start immediately on the action plan you and the teacher worked out together. •Follow up with the teacher if necessary.

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