Make The Grade On Teacher Night

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November is the time for parent-teacher conferences at many schools across the country. The Saturday Early Show family counselor Mike Riera, head of the Redwood Day School in Oakland, Calif., gives this advice on how to use the conference to get a good picture of your child's progress.

Hallmarks of a successful parent-teacher conference
  • You leave realizing that this teacher knows your child through her observations, comments and examples.
  • For the teacher, you fill out the picture a bit with how your student is at home by sharing things the teacher might not know.
  • You learn your child's strengths in the classroom.
  • You learn where your child struggles, and you get suggestions as to how you can help that area improve at home -- how you can intervene to make a positive difference.

    What teachers would like parents to know about conferences
    The meetings are not about what you are doing wrong as a parent. Your kid's report card is not your report card. Also, the meeting is not about reliving your school experiences with teachers.

    The most effective way to get a really good snapshot of a child's academic progress
    Ask specific questions with examples:
  • What's he like in small group work; can you give an example?
  • What's she like on the playground with her peers; can you give an example?
  • What are her strengths, and where does she struggle? See if it matches what you see at home.

    Things to find out about your child's learning style
    Some teachers trained in these areas will tell you without your prompting, but many others need your prompts. Do some homework: For instance, kinesthetic, visual, auditory, analytical, interpersonal, intrapersonal. Say what you've noticed as a prompt.

    Test-taking skills
    Some kids are naturally better testers than others - not necessarily more intelligent - just better test-takers. All can improve. Ask what you can do at home to help out.

    Social skills
    Ask about your child in playground, the lunchroom, and greeting guests to the class.

    Observations about your child that are helpful to share with the teacher
    Tell them what he is like when he is engaged. Tell them what he remembers best from , that is, his highlights from school and the classroom.

    To ask Mike a parenting question, e-mail him at sat@cbsnews.com
    • Ellen Crean

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