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Magic Words at Parent-Teacher Conferences


Q. I get tongue-tied at one-on-one meetings with teachers. They intimidate me, even though I'm a college graduate, too. Sometimes I leave a conference not really feeling as though I connected at all with the teacher, and other times, I get the feeling that I offended the teacher somehow, but am not sure how. Help me get my ideas across better!


You have to make the most of your time at parent-teacher conferences. Effective communication techniques will help you:


         learn the most about your child's progress in a short amount of time


         get your points across


         help you advocate for your child


         and show the teacher you're a supporter and a friend.


Go over this list and try to use some of the words, phrases and questions at your conference:


What can I do for you?


I want to help




How can I make it easier?


I don't understand


Can you give me a couple of examples?


Let's put our heads together






On the other hand, here are some no-no words and phrases NOT to say because they might make the teacher defensive and interfere with your goals of maximizing your child's learning experience:


















Do your job


You don't understand my child


You're doing it wrong


You're not doing enough


Come to the conference resolved to follow the 80/20 rule: you should be listening for 80 percent of the time, and talking for just 20 percent. Good listeners learn the most, and teachers learn a lot about a child if the parents are good listeners, not blabbermouths who monopolize the conversation.


One last thing: if things are NOT going 100 percent great at school for your child, and you have some concerns to share, bring a male to the conference. Your husband and the father of the child is best. But if that's not possible, bring a brother or a grandfather or a friend or a coach. Why? Because educators are impressed when men get involved, and children tend to get their needs met when significant men in their lives are involved. In some school settings, it's a downright novelty. It's a sad commentary on sexism in our society, but it's really true.


So BYOB . . . Bring Your Own Boy. :>)


Homework: See the chapter, "Building a Working Relationship With Teachers," in the book, Helping Your Child Succeed in Public School by Cheri Fuller.


By Susan Darst Williams Parental Involvement 19 2008


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