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.

Anti-Bullying Policies: Do your know your school’s policy?

Bullying and cyberbullying is a statewide and national epidemic that needs immediate attention and is getting it.

This week the United States Department of Education released their Analysis of State Bullying Laws and Policies.

The department examined the extent to which states legislatively required schools to address bullying and what model policies were suggested. The major findings:

There are 46 states with bullying laws, 45 of which direct schools to adopt bullying policies. The vast majority of those laws, 43 of them, specify to some extent what constitutes bullying. There are 41 states with model policies on how to address bullying.

Thirteen states allow schools to have jurisdiction over cyberbullying that occurs off-campus under the premise that the actions can create a hostile school environment.

The study reviewed 20 specific school district policies. Half contain counseling provisions or other non-punitive behavioral interventions for students who bully others, and one out every five included  provisions to address the mental health needs of students who are bullied.

Click here to read the report.

Education is the key to prevention of bullying and cyberbullying.

It is a community effort, starting at home and reaching into the schools.  Both parents and teachers should be role models to youth today.  How you treat your neighbor, your sibling, your friend, your co-worker – is all being watched by younger eyes.

Be the example….

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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Tutoring: Ten Reasons Your Teen May Need Tutoring

As a new school year has arrived in Florida some parents are faced with the fact that their child needs extra help academically.  The sooner this is recognized and addressed, the less likely you will have a failing student.

There are many free and low-cost opportunities to find tutors for your child.  Ask a Librarian has become a major benefit to teens in helping them with reference materials.

Does your child need a tutor? Here are ten reasons that may answer that question.

1. They work hard, but results are minimal – If your child puts forth the effort each night but isn’t seeing results, a well-trained tutor would be a good investment. A tutor will teach them how to study independently, which is a basic skill they’ll need to have mastered by the time they enter college. They also offer tutelage pertaining to note-taking, organizational and time management skills that will improve your child’s chances of success in every subject.
2. They’re easily discouraged -Does your child’s motivation wane as the subject becomes more difficult? A couple of bad grades can lead to several more, and before you know it, they’ve fallen into an academic hole of which they’re unable to find their way out. The personal attention provided by a tutor can steer them around it, giving them the confidence needed to conquer a challenge.
3. Lessons don’t match their learning style -Not every student learns in the same manner. Perhaps your child is a social learner who needs consistent interaction in order to fully grasp a subject. If their teacher is more of a lecturer, a tutor can provide the social learning experience your child desires. Additionally, lesson plans tend to be rigid and teachers generally prefer not to stray away from them. The use of alternative methods can provide your child with easier and more efficient ways to solve a math problem, balance an equation or write an essay.
4. Their teacher is subpar -Like any other profession, the teaching profession has its good and bad apples. During secondary school, students typically lack the study skills to learn a subject on their own, so they’re unable to compensate for wasted class time. A qualified tutor can teach your child everything they need to know and more, breaking their dependence on their subpar teacher.
5. They consistently struggle in one subject -Perhaps a subject like math just isn’t your child’s strong-suit and they’ve never performed well in those classes. By hiring tutor who specializes in that particular area, you can turn your child’s weakness into a strength. A good tutor should be able to tap into your child’s potential, or at the very least, ensure the subject is no longer a drag on their transcript.
6. Curves only cover the problem -Your child may have a decent grade, but it doesn’t mean they fully understand the subject matter. What they miss now could affect them in the future, causing them to fall behind their peers. For example, if they struggle with polynomials in Algebra, they’re destined to struggle in chemistry and physics.
7. They’re nervous about college -The ultra-competitive nature of high schools these days has caused many kids to fold under the pressure. Teenagers who can barely manage their current lives are expected to know exactly what they want to accomplish in the future. A tutor encourages them to focus on the task at hand, teaching the study skills, time management skills and mindset they need for success -now.
8. They experience test anxiety -There’s no denying the SAT and ACT are key components of the college application process. A good or bad score can affect your child’s ability to gain admission into the school of their dreams. Luckily, there is an abundance of experienced SAT and ACT tutors who can teach your child essential test-taking strategies that will enable them to maximize their score. These tutors possess the resources – like practice exams – that can be used to quell big test anxiety.
9. School isn’t challenging enough -Perhaps your child isn’t being sufficiently challenged by their studies and you don’t want their potential to go to waste. Or maybe they’ve taken an interest in a particular subject – like a foreign language – and you want to cultivate a passion. Either way, a tutor will utilize your child’s free time in a stimulating manner.
10. No other help is available -As previously mentioned, you may not be able to offer the help your child needs in order to realize their potential in a subject. After all, it has been years since you were in their shoes, and more likely than not, teaching isn’t your strength. A good tutor will be able to explain the tedious details of a subject in way that your child can understand.

Source: Christian Colleges Online

Broward County offers tutoring services in many areas that are free or low-cost.  Click here.

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