How to Handle Teacher Conferences

James struts with a downbeat on the first note, low-slung jeans and baggy T-shirt framing his angular adolescent form. If he isn't downloading music on the computer, he's instant messaging his girlfriend about Friday on Monday night. Unfortunately, his freshman report cards don't reflect his percentage of coolness achieved.

Unlike some elementary and middle schools which schedule parent-teacher conferences after every marking period, many high schools schedule only one per year. However, with kids like James who put parties before books, you need one hundred per year! Set a date for one today.

Before you go, do some preconference homework first. Advance preparation gives you the chance to prepare for a worst-case scenario. It also puts you in the best position for volleying suggestions and making crucial decisions. The more you know and share, the more strategic advantage you and his teachers will have.

Common Teenage Issues
Though much of the hormonal tensions of middle school eases as James moves into late adolescence, life can still be an emotional and philosophical taffy pull for you both. After all, if he is only fifteen, you could well be forty, which naturally gives you both decidedly different ideas of what's important.

What's pulling at him and his grades are common teenage issues. First and foremost, fifteen- to eighteen-year-olds firmly believe they are fully capable of parenting themselves. Ironically, though, they feel both a raging desire for, and a secret fear of, independence. Though it's often the result of their still-developing sense of self-confidence, high schoolers often make their families and teachers the monkeys in the middle.

High schoolers also often have big ideas that have no relationship to reality. James knows for sure he wants to be really rich some day, but when you ask him how he plans to achieve this, he goes blank. Under pressure, he might mumble, "I might have to, like, maybe work or something."

All the while you're working hard on him, kids like James are pumping every waking ounce of intellectual and creative energy into parties, best friends, girlfriends, driving your car, the Internet, or conversations on the telephone. Because these distractions have undoubtedly impacted his grades, it's conference time.


From Teacher Says by Evelyn Porreca Vuko. Copyright © 2004. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

If you'd like to buy this book, visit amazon.com or click on the book cover.

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