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Staying in touch with your child's teachers is vital, especially in middle school

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Teens hanging out at school

In this article, you’ll find answers to questions like:

1. What questions to ask?
2. Should I involve the principal?
3. What are points to discuss?

While it may seem difficult to hold parent-teacher conferences when your child's in middle school and has four or five academic subject areas, it's still vital to stay in touch.

“When you are a partner with the school, it is a beautiful thing,” said Doris Saffran, Community Education specialist for the School District of Palm Beach County.

Middle school is a time of great transition for your child. So the more informed you are about what's going on in the classroom, the more you can support your child's learning.

1. WHAT QUESTIONS TO ASK?

If you're on a tight schedule, pick the teachers of subjects your child seems to struggle with the most. Then ask your child how he or she thinks it's going. Too much homework? Worried about a certain topic or issue? Any problems with other students? Prior to the conference, look at your child's work and plan to ask the following:  

  • What's the best way to stay in touch with the teacher — text, email, notes, etc.?
  •  How much time should my child spend on homework each week? Does my child turn in assignments on time and keep up with the work?
  • Do we need a plan of action to help my child succeed?

2. SHOULD I INVOLVE THE PRINCIPAL?

Conferences should end on a happy note. However, if you and the teacher can’t agree on what to do for your child, you may need to meet with the principal.

While teachers are the experts on learning, they should offer you choices. If your child needs additional help, the teacher may bring in a team to work on an individualized education plan (IEP) for the school year.

Most schools have a curriculum night or special day for teacher conferences. In these events, you'll have less time with each teacher, so make sure you prepare one or two important questions. If you can't meet with every teacher, plan to reach out by email to stay in touch and let them know you're concerned about your child's learning.

Also, be sure to describe any medical needs that may impact how your child performs in school. Ask if specialists are available if your child has special problems.

3. WHAT ARE POINTS TO DISCUSS?

• Share family events with the teacher. A new baby, a divorce or a death can impact your child’s behavior. This gives the teacher insight.

• Tell the teacher if you speak a different language at home. If your English is not strong, the teacher can arrange for a translator to join your conference.

• Write down a plan with the teacher, including what you can do to help your child learn.

• If need be, schedule an appointment in a few weeks to follow up on your plan.

• Afterward, sit down with your child about the conference. Discuss how you will help and ask for suggestions.

SOURCES:

• Doris Saffran, Community Education specialist, School District of Palm Beach County
• Catherine Tedesco, former literacy manager of Elementary Education, School District of Palm Beach County

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