Parents should sharpen their communication skills and do their homework to prepare for teacher's conferences, which will be held Nov. 12 and Nov. 13 in the Lawrence public schools.
Open communication between parents and their children and their children's teachers is crucial if parents want to do all they can to support their children's school endeavors, educators say.
Home life affects school work, yet teachers can't know everything that happens at home, and parents can't know everything that happens at school.
That makes it important for parents and teachers to talk openly about students' performance in both settings, said Roma Earles, gifted education consultant at Lawrence High School.
"It is a partnership," she said.
EARLES AND SANDY Sanders, fifth- and sixth-grade teacher at Cordley Elementary School, shared some tips about how to make parent-teacher conferences successful.
Additional tips were provided by the staff at Central Junior High School:
Before the conference, ask your children what subjects they like best and least, and why. Ask if there is anything they would like to ask the teacher. Explain that you are meeting with their teachers to try to help them.
Make notes about what you would like to ask. "In 20 minutes it's really hard to cover a lot if they don't have some specific things they're interested in," Sanders said.
At the conference, ask the most important questions first. Sanders tries to begin conferences by asking parents if they have any major concerns, whether they be academic or social. It helps if parents come prepared to talk.
ASK TEACHERS what they expect from the student, what the student's strengths and weaknesses are, whether the student actively participates in class and how the student's work compares with that of other students at the same level. Parents have to know what students need help with before they can help them, Earles said.
Be open. If a child is having a problem, knowing all the variables can help teachers address the problem more effectively, Sanders said. She tries to find out from parents how children behave at home so she can compare that with the behavior she observes at school. If a child is talkative at home, but quiet at school, that could mean something is making him or her uncomfortable at school or that the child is bottling up his or her emotions at school and letting them out at home.
Teachers may find out through conversation at conferences that parents had some of the same learning problems their children are having, and that can help teachers solve the problem, Sanders said.
It also can be helpful for teachers and parents to compare their perceptions of the child's performance. "I think conferences are at the top of the list for anything we do that's worthwhile because . . . it helps us be a lot more effective with (students') needs," Sanders said.
As the conference ends, sum up decisions you've made together about how to help the child.
After the conference, tell your child what you and the teacher discussed and decided. Make sure your child knows that you are trying to help.
Start working immediately on what you and the teacher decided to do.