Parent Asks:

I will soon be having a parent/teacher conference at my stepson's school. Being new to the role of step Dad, I'm a little unsure about what I should ask. Could you share a few guidelines with me?

Educator Answers:

If the school conference is a "regularly scheduled biannual or quarterly" event, talk with your spouse about your participation in the parent/teacher conference. Your involvement communicates your desire to be an active step Dad. Often at the regularly scheduled conferences, teachers have observation notes, test evaluations, and samples of the student's work to share with parents. The evaluations may contain standardized or teacher-made tests. You can ask the teacher about the tests, your stepson's progress, and the sample work. Ask if the teacher feels the scores and samples provide an accurate "snapshot" of your stepson's knowledge, abilities, and skills.

If the conference is not a regularly scheduled event, but instead is a special conference arranged at the request of the teacher or child's mother or birth father, be sure to check with these individuals to determine the appropriateness of your participation in the conference. You, too, could request time to discuss what may be private issues, either on the phone or a face-to-face conference. Blended families create special circumstances that teachers are aware of and can likely accommodate.

Remember, conferences are not the only time for parent and teacher communication. Check the notes your child brings home from school and read the comments the teacher writes on returning homework for information on your child's learning strengths and weaknesses. Teachers often use those written communication tools to offer parents ideas for activities to do at home. Ask how you can best reach the teacher if you have further questions or concerns and share a phone number or e-mail address about where and what time is best to reach you.