Parent Teacher Conference: Tips for Parents

parent-teacher-conference1Now the time is nearing for parents.

Parent teacher conferences are usually set for October.

Are you ready?

Here are some tips to help you get the most from your time with your child’s teachers.

Before the conference:

  • Check grades and teacher expectations. Many schools post student’s grades on their Student Information System. So review your child’s past work. There’s no reason to get caught off guard.
  • Jot questions and prioritize concerns. Take a few minutes to jot down questions for the teacher. Take those with you so you won’t forget to ask. Also, don’t forget to ask your kid if there is anything the teacher might tell you that you don’t know. (It’s always best to not be surprised.)
  • Meet your needs. If you need extra set of “ears” to be with you, you feel intimidated, or worry the teacher may use jargon you don’t understand, bring a friend (a neighbor, relative, older child). If you need a translator (language or sign), call the school to arrange one. Let the teacher know before the conference if you are in a contentious divorce or if your partner requests to come to the conference separately.
  • Block time. The teacher has scheduled only a set amount of time, so you will want to use every second wisely and not be distracted. Arrange a baby sitter for a younger child and allow ample time to get there.

Here are the four areas of learning to discuss during the conference:

  • Academic: Find out what your child’s strongest and weakest subjects are, how he compares to the other students and if he is keeping up with the workload. You might ask: “If you were to evaluate my child now, what would his grade and average test score be in each subject? “If the teacher uses educational terms that you’re not familiar with, ask for a simpler explanation. Ask to see specific examples of any academic problem so you know how to help or if a tutor might be helpful.
  • Social: Find out how your childgets along with others. Let the teacher know of any bullying or repeated peer rejection and create a safety plan. Ask for recommendations for a new friend if there are social problems.
  • Behavior: Find out how your child behaves around peers and adults and if he is showing up on time and prepared to learn. If there are behavior issues, get specifics: what the behavior looks like, the teacher’s discipline approach, any triggers or patterns (when and where the behavior usually happens), and how it is being resolved.
  • Emotional/health: Find out how your child is coping. Explain any home issues that could affect your child’s learning performance (a divorce, deployment, illness of a relative) and any serious allergies, sleep problems, medication, counseling or other health-related issues that the teacher should know about.

If your child is having any kind of problem in one or more of those four learning areas, then discuss strategies you and the teacher can do to help your child by creating common goals. Discuss how you will you know if things are improving or declining and if there’s no improvement, ask what our “next step” will be and how the teacher would like to be contacted.

After your conference:

Go home, share what you learned with your child and parenting partner, and then commit to doing what you discussed. If you see that your child continues to struggle or you do not see improvement in a few weeks, or things get worse, call for another conference. If you still don’t get help, then it’s time to seek the help of the principal, vice-principal or counselor.


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Parents, what are your parent- teacher conference experiences? Do you have any tips of your own to share? Please leave them in the comments.

Special contributor: Michele Borba, Parenting Expert and author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions.

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Education in 20 Years: Will Technology Replace Teachers?

In today’s high-tech classrooms, teachers have to be equal parts educator and I.T. specialist. They not only have to know their content, but also how to integrate, operate, and troubleshoot advanced equipment and computer programs. Teachers are constantly adapting to stay current, but will technology eventually take over the entire classroom?


 There are many reasons why schools would opt for technology over teachers. First and foremost, buying and implementing technology is more cost-effective than hiring classroom teachers. Computer programs and Internet services do not require healthcare, retirement benefits, professional development, or pay raises.

Furthermore, technology can save educational institutions from legal headaches such as teacher unions and lawsuits. Even though schools perform extensive background checks, they still face the stigma and media attention brought on by teachers who commit crimes and engage in inappropriate behavior. By getting rid of teachers, schools could spend more time and money on education and less on litigation.

Can a computer program really fulfill all of the roles of a teacher?

Technology is also tempting because it can help cut down on the expense of traditional brick-and-mortar buildings. By offering online learning experiences, schools can educate students off campus—thus saving money on facilities and maintenance. Additionally, online coursework can provide greater curriculum choices to students in rural or remote areas.

Another incentive for schools to use technology is the ability to offer students a flexible education experience. Online universities already allow students to “attend” courses at night and on the weekends. It’s hard to find teachers that will do the same.


Technology is a great way to offer educational services to students, but it still has its limitations. No matter how “smart” a product or computer program is, it can’t compare to the knowledge and life experience that a teacher brings into the classroom. A teacher can use this background to help the student make real-world connections and see a subject from a different perspective.

Educational technology usually takes a one-size-fits-all approach to learning that doesn’t account for learning differences or students with special needs. By contrast, a teacher can present material in a variety of ways and modify curriculum to meet the needs of each student.

When using technology, students’ knowledge is usually evaluated through standardized tests. However, classroom teachers use both formal (tests, quizzes, essays, etc.) and informal (observation, discussions, student questions, etc.) assessments to determine if a student has mastered a concept.


Finally, there are usually no alternatives when electronic products break down or Internet connections are lost, and they can be expensive to fix and replace. Technology only educates students if they can use it, but a teacher can adapt a lesson and continue teaching even if her projector is broken or the Internet is down.


 While the role of technology in education is steadily increasing, it is more likely that it will continue to be used as a supplement to teaching rather than an alternative to teachers. In fact, currently available online universities and virtual academies still employ educators to create lessons, mediate discussions, and evaluate student progress. These interactions between students and teachers are an important part of the learning process and help students become productive members of society. Even the best learning products and services can’t replace the invaluable life lessons taught by a dedicated teacher.

Stephanie Marbukh is a blogger and former teacher who writes about a variety of topics including education news, office solutions, and car insurance.

Why do Teens Steal and Shoplift?

As we are in the summer months, more teens are hanging at the malls.  I get an increase in calls of teens being arrested for stealing and/or shoplifting.  Why are they doing this, especially if they have the money to pay for it?

Too Young To Start

There are almost as many reasons teens steal as there are things for teens to steal. One of the biggest reasons teens steal is peer pressure. Often, teens will steal items as a means of proving’ that they are “cool enough” to hang out with a certain group. This is especially dangerous because if your teen can be convinced to break the law for petty theft, there is a strong possibility he or she can be convinced to try other, more dangerous behaviors, like drinking or drugs. It is because of this that it is imperative you correct this behavior before it escalates to something beyond your control.

Another common reason teens steal is because they want an item their peers have but they cannot afford to purchase. Teens are very peer influenced, and may feel that if they don’t have the ‘it’ sneakers or mp3 player, they’ll be considered less cool than the kids who do. If your teen cannot afford these items, they may be so desperate to fit in that they simply steal the item. They may also steal money from you or a sibling to buy such an item. If you notice your teen has new electronics or accessories that you know you did not buy them, and your teen does not have a job or source of money, you may want to address whereabouts they came up with these items.

Teens may also steal simply for a thrill. Teens who steal for the ‘rush’ or the adrenaline boost are often simply bored and/ or testing the limits of authority. They may not even need or want the item they’re stealing! In cases like these, teens can act alone or as part of a group. Often, friends accompanying teens who shoplift will act as a ‘lookout’ for their friend who is committing the theft. Unfortunately, even if the lookout doesn’t actually steal anything, the can be prosecuted right along with the actual teen committing the crime, so its important that you make sure your teen is not aiding his or her friends who are shoplifting.

Yet another reason teens steal is for attention. If your teen feels neglected at home, or is jealous of the attention a sibling is getting, he or she may steal in the hopes that he or she is caught and the focus of your attention is diverted to them. If you suspect your teen is stealing or acting out to gain your attention, it is important that you address the problem before it garners more than just your attention, and becomes part of their criminal record. Though unconventional, this is your teen’s way of asking for your help- don’t let them down!

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Teen Self-Esteem Starts Early

Self-esteem, confidence, feeling good about yourself etc… All of these are very important to helping your teen make good decisions for their future.

You have been saving for your teen’s college tuition for more than a decade. You have kept him on track in his studies. You have ferried him to countless soccer meets and football games. You may feel like you’re doing everything you can to ensure that your children have bright and promising futures, but you still may have overlooked a crucial element: their self-esteem.

Self-esteem is not something that should be pushed aside. In fact, a healthy sense of self-esteem is much more crucial to your teen’s future than you may initially think. Self-esteem is a measure of someone’s confidence in his or her capabilities as well as his or her sense of identity. It allows people to determine what they can and cannot do. Those with higher levels of self-esteem tend to feel more confident about their capabilities and therefore are more willing to take on challenges and try new things. They also are more likely to be independent and motivated, which is good for teenagers because it will allow them to better tackle the rigors of academics and college life.

Those with lower levels of self-esteem, however, are likely to be nervous, uncertain, dependent, and unmotivated. This is because they lack a sense of security in their capabilities, and therefore are more unwilling to do anything where failure is a possibility. Alarmingly, research cited by the Counseling and Mental Health Center of the University of Texas indicates that low levels of self-esteem can also increase a teen’s likelihood of becoming involved in drug use. For young women, unplanned pregnancies are more prevalent for those with low levels of self-esteem. Low self-esteem also can lead to the development of depression or anxiety.

Unfortunately, teenagers naturally have lower levels of self-esteem because they are going through numerous life changes and facing many new and uncertain things. For example, the onset of puberty, having to navigate high school politics, and moving away to tackle college are all uncertainties that can cause many teens to feel unsure about who they really are and who they will become. The overall result of all these changes is a shaken self-esteem.

It is important for parents to guide their teens through this confusing period so that they may regain the self-esteem they need to get through it all unscathed. You can do this by encouraging your teen to take care of himself. Good physical health can do wonders for mental health and self-esteem, so when your teen seems to be feeling bad about himself, go for a brisk walk with him. This will help him to get his muscles moving and perk his spirit up, according to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. You can also strive to praise him whenever he does something commendable, such as having a good soccer meet or receiving a good grade in class. The praise does not have to be over-the-top gushing each time. In fact, a simple, “Good job!” can improve a teen’s self-esteem dramatically.

All in all, parents can ensure that their teens have a healthy level of self-esteem by offering them support, love, and respect. This way, teens can develop a good sense of who they are and what they can do, leading to the bright and promising future you always wanted for them.


Lauren Bailey, a freelancer who blogs about online colleges, contributed this guest post.  She can be reached via email at:

Cheating: Amazing Stats on Academic Cheating

As the first semester of school has ended in Duval, Clay and Duval County, what does your student’s grades reflect?

Every student will face down the temptation to cheat on an assignment in his or her lifetime. By this point, turning in fake papers, copying the work of others and outright plagiarism has sadly grown inescapably woven into the education sector. Unsurprisingly, statistics abound regarding the whats, hows and whys behind academic dishonesty — and many will surprise those who find such actions deplorable.

8 Astonishing Stats on Academic Cheating:

  1. 60.8% of polled college students admitted to cheating. An admittedly informal 2007 poll conducted by the popular website CollegeHumor revealed that 60.8% of 30,000 respondents — most of them within its core demographic — confessed to cheating on their assignments and tests. This lines up closely with a questionnaire sent out to Rutgers students as well, to which 68% of students confessed that they had broken the university’s explicit anti-cheating rules. And the number only seems to swell as the years progress, with freshmen the most likely to fudge their way through class.
  2. The same poll revealed that 16.5% of them didn’t regret it. Probably the most disconcerting find that the very same CollegeHumor poll unearthed is the fact that 16.5% of those who admitted to cheating felt no guilt whatsoever for their breach of ethics. It did not go into any details regarding why, of course, but one wonders if today’s culture of entitlement and success without regard to the well-being of others plays a major role in such callous attitudes. With so many scholarships, awards, internships and other incentives at stake, it’s entirely possible that those reporting no regrets considered their actions justified when rewarded for their “success.”
  3. Cheaters have higher GPAs. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a poll conducted at Fordham University noted a significant gap between the GPAs of cheating students and their honest counterparts. Cheaters, on average, boast a 3.41 average. Non-cheaters average at 2.85. As mentioned with the previous statistic, many probably feel compelled to compromise their school’s ethics policies in their own self-interest — especially considering the significant number of academic rewards hinging on one’s GPA. What makes this statistic so upsetting is the amount of opportunities being robbed from honest students whose averages may not measure up, but at least they came about them without resorting to plagiarism, copying and other cheating strategies.
  4. The public is more concerned with cheating than college officials. The Ad Council and Educational Testing Service discovered that 41% of Americans and 34% of college officials considered academic cheating a serious issue. They attribute the surprisingly low numbers to a decreased stigma surrounding the actions and an increase in emphasizing a stockpile of rewards and honors over hard work and dedication. Though their fact sheet does not offer any specific numbers, they noted that men and women are equally likely to cheat in an academic setting; math and science classes inspire the most incidents. Engineering and business majors, fraternity and sorority members, students on the extreme ends of the GPA scale, freshmen and sophomores are all more likely to cheat, and there exists no real difference along gender lines. However, men seem to admit to it slightly more than women.
  5. Cheating college students likely start in high school. If not before. According to the very same Ad Council and ETS study, between 75% and 98% of college students who confessed to cheating reported that they set such a personal standard in high school. The organizations conducting the poll, however, believe that the motivation to cheat can start as early elementary and middle school. After kindergarten, teachers, parents and administrators place much heavier emphasis on grades and awards, placing considerable pressure on students to do anything necessary to stay ahead of their contemporaries.
  6. In fact, 85% of them think cheating is essential. Even college students that don’t cheat still think it a valuable strategy to scoring the best grades, internships, scholarships and awards possible. A U.S. News and World Report survey noted the phenomenon, revealing that 90% of those polled didn’t believe that they or others would get caught — and subsequently punished — for their actions. In his study of 1,800 college students, Professor Donald McCabe noted that 15% turned in a fake term paper (either from a mill or a website), 84% cheated on written assignments and 52% plagiarized one or more sentences for a paper.
  7. 95% of cheaters don’t get caught. As another study conducted by Ad Council and ETS confirmed, many of the suspicions that college students held about getting caught for their crimes. This gives them even more incentive to lie their way through classes rather than actually put forth the effort and learn something. Websites such as allow professors to check whether or not their students have handed over a fake paper, but it cannot help cheating on tests, quizzes and non-written assignments.
  8. Top-tier paper mill website average about 8,000 hits a day. ETS and Ad Council’s research quotes founder Kenneth Sahr as stating that his website receives around 8,000 hits a day. Even accounting for innocent, curious onlookers and suspicious educators and parents double-checking a student’s work, this does illustrate the prevalence and high demand for pre-written term papers, homework and other projects. and its ilk often post disclaimers citing their services as “for critique” or “research” purposes only – yet their copy almost always tends to suggest otherwise. Some schools have launched campaigns against their services, though such measures put little to no damper on the overarching popularity.

Source: Online Education Database

Be an educated parent, you will have smarter teens.

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Mistakes That Teachers Make and Students Benefit From

“Mistakes lead to learning and growing. Mistakes challenge you to learn from them in order to succeed. Mistakes represent success in disguise.”

This, according to a recent article in Converge, is a powerful way to look at mistakes by both teachers and students.  In Clay, Duval, and St. Johns County the holiday school break is almost here.  As students are making their plans for their holiday days-off, teachers will be doing the same.

Five mistakes that teachers should make:

1. Let students fail
Empire High School government teacher Mr. Jeremy Gypton says that letting students fail by their own hand is — although technically a mistake — good for students. Throughout preparing to become a teacher, Mr. Gypton and others were told to help students through their struggles.

Essentially, teachers are being told to hold their students’ hands and give them stepping-stones to the answers of their education. However, letting students find their own path to answers in class is a key experience for them to become better students. If students can research and find out answers by themselves, then they will be able to excel in researching any topic, both in other classes and in life.

For example, Mrs. Dujmic and many teachers at Empire expect students to be creative with presentations because they have a laptop with various applications. Mrs. Dujmic said that when she asks her students to do their presentations, they are required to use two mediums of technology. The two mediums are not specified, so the students have the creative freedom to choose from a variety of tools such as PowerPoint, Keynote, iMovie, Presi, GarageBand, YouTube and projectors.

While PowerPoint is a popular tool to use for presentations in order to create a neat and informative presentation, using iMovie would give extra flare that could score the student more points. When a student using a tool that could flop for the specific type of presentation they need in relation to displaying information and creativity, they learn which mediums work best and which work the worst in certain situations.

2. Make bad lesson plans / make mistakes on content
Every student, and every class, is different. Lesson plans that work for some students do not work for all, and teaching methods that are perfect for one course may not be for another. Empire High School math teacher Mr. Billy Campbell states that when teachers go out of the norm to make a creative lesson plan, it might completely fall through with a class. That experience of trial and error in making lesson plans will help a teacher know what type of work is most beneficial for students in regards to work ethic and retaining information. Also, teachers should not be afraid to slip up once in a while in their words or writing because when students make mistakes, then they will engage during a lesson by creating a discussion about how to correct the mistake. Use technology that you are not totally familiar with.

There are some assignments that should not be given as much creative freedom as others. During my junior year history class, students were told to create a presentation about certain events in American history and then to teach the class using the presentation. The presentations made in that class varied from PowerPoint-type presentations to iMovies to speeches or skits. The least informative, on average, were the students who made iMovies. When it comes to iMovies, students like to be flashy with a lack of text. Audio is a nice addition to an iMovie that can really enhance the project, but some students see it as a way to showcase their favorite bands in an irrelevant manner. Then students are required to take notes on the presentations and use them as information on events that would be on future tests/quizzes. So for the benefit of the entire class, it would have helped to limit the creative aspect to a more structured project that would be as informative and relevant as possible.

3. Waste time
Waste time to see who your students are and what they know.  Teachers may feel pressure to spend every single moment on content, but getting to know your students and their knowledge can actually save you time in the long run. A teacher at the University of Arizona’s School of Journalism, Terry Wimmer, keeps flashcards of his students. He makes the flashcards on the first day of school and has students tell him their basic information as well as an interesting thing about them, which helps him know something about them.

Attached to each student’s card is a picture of that student. That way Mr. Wimmer can come to his classes during the second week of school and know who his students are. His method of getting to know his students is beneficial for multiple reasons. Mr. Wimmer’s students will not be able to hide behind anonymity, and he will be able to call them out. Also, students feel more comfortable in a class when their teacher knows who they are.

Before making lesson plans that integrate technology use, it would help to learn where students are in regards to that technology. A helpful part in the process of a teacher learning about their students is getting to know where they are with tools that will be used in class. If teachers find out which students are experts with programs and which students have never touched them, they can make future lessons plans around that. They will know when to have mini introductory lessons for programs, when to assign students to help others, and when no introductions are necessary.

4. Ignore your reputation
Many teachers want to earn the vote of best teacher, but sometimes not being the most favorable teacher can help your students. Even though giving the hardest tests at a school may not be seen as the coolest thing to students, it will give the students more incentive to learn. For instance, in my Senior Composition class, the tests on books that we read are largely on minute details — things such as which word two characters used to describe an object. Although this test makes students have to read every word of the book to ensure a passing grade, it is what makes the book a better learning tool for students. And just because students like multiple choice or true and false more doesn’t mean that those types of questions have to be on a test. Discussion questions often invoke stronger thought.

Students often hate it when teachers start the year off by grading as strictly as possible. Many teachers find it easier when they start off with easy assignments and lenient grading and then gradually get harder, but some of the teachers at Empire — especially English teachers — have the same expectations from the first day to the last. Starting off strict — and continuing to be — gives less wiggle room for the students that like to take advantage of a teacher’s lenience. All teachers know that those are the students that interrupt class and make it annoying for everyone to have to sit through lectures on how to not act like a five-year-old. So even though being strict might not make a teacher the most popular, it can make a class run a whole lot smoother and at a better pace.

5. Set standards too high
It is a good thing for teachers not to have low standards so that they have room to push students and make their students become better educated and driven. However, not every student has the same levels of talent and know-how. While one standard is achievable for one student, it may be impossible for another. The same goes for standards for the entire class. John de Dios says that while one group of students may blow a teacher’s standards out of the water, another group might struggle to get to the OK point. This means that teachers should have a moderately high standard that is achievable by the average student, but is still high enough to challenge students and push them to a better education.

In regards to technology, students are also at different levels of experience and know-how due to their backgrounds. There are many students at Empire who are very experienced with computers and can write coding for websites with ease. However, there are other students who struggle with applications, even when using toolbars and buttons. In certain classes when tools are first integrated into a class, such as Photoshop into photography class, a teacher has no idea how well students can use the program.

Read the entire article here.

Did you miss the Five Mistakes Students Should Make, click here.

Be an educated parent, you will have smarter teens!

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Online Courses: Are They Right for Your Teen?

Are online courses right for you?  Are they right for your teenager?  With so many teens threatening to drop-out of school and either want to get a GED or do online classes, they have to be ready to put the time in.

Online courses can offer tremendous opportunities and open career doors, but before you sign up, take some time and ask yourself (or your teen) the following 10 questions:

1. Am I comfortable using a computer, the Internet, and email?
You don’t have to be a computer expert by any means, but you should have a good working knowledge of computers and possibly even certain programs depending on your course.

2. Do I have reliable access to the Internet?

All the computer knowledge in the world won’t help you succeed in online courses if you can’t count on your Internet connection. And since connections can fail at any time, be sure to have a back-up plan as well, perhaps a local Internet cafe or even a trusted friend’s computer if you’re in dire straits.

3. Do I enjoy working and learning on my own, at my own pace?
Online courses are great because many give you the freedom to be an independent learner, but if that isn’t something you enjoy or excel at, online courses may not be for you.

4. Do I have the time and energy to commit to online courses?
Don’t be fooled into thinking that online courses take less time and energy than traditional courses on campus; you’ll save time on travel, but you’ll also be spending a lot more time on online discussions.

5. Do I manage time effectively?

Taking online courses mean that you decide when you will read and learn materials, participate in discussions, and study; you must be able to plan your schedule on your own taking into account all of your obligations.

6. Do I need a flexible schedule?
If you have work or family commitments that require flexibility in scheduling, online courses may be the right option for you as you continue your education.

7. Am I comfortable asking for help and more information from instructors and peers?
Chances are that throughout your online courses, you will come across material that is difficult to understand or even simply not downloading correctly. You may need to contact your instructor and/or peers on a regular basis, so you should be comfortable doing so.

8. Am I a strong reader and enjoy text-based learning?
Although online courses often include visual components as well, for the most part you will be learning through reading texts, materials, and email discussions. College-level.

9. Am I driven, motivated, and capable of pushing myself to succeed?

Your success in online courses is almost entirely up to you and your desire to learn, so you need to know how to push yourself to do your very best without having an instructor or fellow students in your face to offer motivation.

10. Is there an online course I’m interested in taking?

So you’ve answered all the questions above and you think online courses are for you? Well now is the time to find out whether online courses are offered in your discipline. Course offerings are growing all the time, but some industries offer many more opportunities than others, so be sure to have a good look around to determine whether online courses are an option for you.

Source: Online Courses

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