Tips on how to get the most from parent-teacher conferences

As parents rework schedules to squeeze in the 15-minute parent-teacher conference, do you ever wonder: What good is this doing?

Not much if you don't prepare.

Do you go in hoping to learn what your child's day is like, how much he or she is learning, lacking, and, frankly, what the teacher thinks of your kid? Is your child kind to the other kids? Does he or she participate in class and seem confident?

Those are big expectations to pack into a few precious moments with a teacher who is sitting next to a two-foot-tall stack of folders for the 20-plus parents she will meet that day.

This conference is not the only time you can talk to your child's teacher, and it shouldn't be. It's a good checking-in moment, but you should always be able to discuss your child with his or her teacher.

How to get the most out of the quick conversation?

• Send a short e-mail to teachers at the beginning of the term, outlining a child's strengths and areas of improvement. State what your child's goals are and what your expectations are for the student and teacher.

• Don't become defensive if something unflattering but true is said about the child. In other words, advocate for your child, but also show the teacher that you are a partner in helping your child do well.

• Share information that the teacher may not know about the child, such as his or her favorite subjects and outside hobbies, as well as things happening at home that may affect schoolwork.

• Ask to see your child's work. There is no better way to see how your child is progressing.

• Ask the teacher to explain. Every profession has its own jargon, and if you don't understand what is being said, ask.

• Sum up what you think has been said. This will make sure you both agree on any decisions you have made about your child.

• Finally, don't forget to talk to your child about the conference. Stress the positive, help your child feel better about your future communications with the teacher. If there is an action plan of some sort, talk with your child about the suggestions for improvement. Then plan with your child how to carry out these suggestions.

• And if you find yourself walking out of the school unsure of what you just heard, don't forget this wasn't your only chance.

Washington Post

Introducing the techy toddler generation

A new study reveals that 38 percent of children under the age of 2 have used smartphones and/or tablets. Common Sense Media, which conducted the survey, told tech website Mashable that "this is a true sign that the digital generation has arrived."

Indeed, it is. The average amount of time kids 8 and under spend on mobile devices each day has tripled in the past two years — from five to 15 minutes.

The number of children who use mobile devices has nearly doubled, to 72 percent. Kids under 2 spend more than twice as much time watching TV and DVDs (55 minutes) as they do reading or being read to (19 minutes).

Orlando Sentinel