As both a parent and a teacher, I have been on both sides of the table at parent teacher conferences. Sometimes, the conference is simply to tell a parent how awesome a student is already doing in school. Sometimes, it is to talk about our concerns for a struggling student. It is meant to discuss what we can do as adults, to help each student do better, increase his confidence and find success in learning.

Most of the time, parent teacher conferences, regardless of the reasons for them, are very pleasant and productive. They can do a lot to help both the parents and teachers know what needs to be done to help an individual student move forward in his learning.

I have found in my experience, that achieving these productive conferences, takes a few simple but important things. Most importantly, both the parent and the teacher need to be honest, respectful to each other, and focus on what both can do to help the student meet his or her potential as a learner.

In addition to this, there are four tips that can help parents prepare for a productive and helpful conference with their children's teachers.

1. Understand most teachers are truly caring, and have your child's best interests at heart

While it is true that there are occasionally teachers out there who are not so great, the vast majority really do care about the kids and want to see them succeed. If a student is having trouble, either academically or behaviorally, it is most likely not because the teacher is incompetent or picking on the student. Focusing on what the parent and teacher can work on together to hold the student accountable for his own actions and choices will do much more to help the student progress than trying to place blame.

2. Know a student's education does not have to go on hold when she walks out the school door

Parents can do a great deal to help their students get ahead by helping them and encouraging them in their homework. Making sure that a student does his or her homework (and has a quiet place to do it) is one thing a parent can do to help a child. In addition, encourage students to wait until after homework is done to play games or go to friends' houses.

3. Letting a teacher know about different challenges in a student's personal life can be very helpful

A job change, a divorce or struggling marriage, a pet's death or many other difficulties can affect how students act and perform at school. Making teachers aware of such things can be very helpful for the teacher. Once the teacher understands a student's unique situation and unique needs and challenges, he can offer empathy and understanding.

4. Remember most teachers are more than willing to meet with parents at times other than the scheduled parent teacher meetings

If a parent has a concern about a student's grade, relationship with peers or anything else that may cause concern, most teachers are more than willing to talk with parents about these things. It doesn't have to be only during the parent teacher conferences that the school schedules. Show consideration by arranging to talk ahead of time at a time that does not interfere with class time.

Remember, the vast majority of teachers really value the kids they teach. They want nothing more than to see them succeed and, ultimately, to become happy, productive adults. Since all responsible parents want the same thing, productive parent teacher conferences will do wonders for a student's learning progress and chances for success.

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