WHEN IT'S time for parent-teacher conferences, parents are advised to follow some of their own advice about going to school prepared -- with notes and questions in writing -- and with an open mind toward what they will see and hear.
Here are some tips from teachers and school administrators for making these conferences comfortable and constructive:
* Make an appointment. Arrive on time. If you are unable to keep the appointment, notify the teacher.
* Be aware of how much time you have. Most teachers would like to spend more than 15 or 20 minutes with a parent, but cannot because of the number of students they have.
* Approach the conference with ''a pleasant, productive attitude,'' says Barry Thomas, a sixth-grade teacher at Deer Park Middle School in Randallstown. ''This is not a battle zone. The minute there is conflict, the conference practically shuts down.''
* Do your homework. Know what you want to discuss and write down your concerns and questions. This will help you keep the conference focused. Bring in samples of your child's school work that you have questions about -- homework you didn't understand, tests that your child did poorly on. Realize that the teacher will have an agenda, too.
* Focus on your child and his strengths and weaknesses.
* Be clear and specific in describing situations or asking questions. Insist that the teacher do the same. If you don't understand something, say so. If the teacher lapses into jargon, ask him or her to speak more clearly.
* Show your interest by asking to see some of your child's work, if the teacher doesn't offer it. Thumb through his notebooks. Ask about his behavior and attitude, how he gets along with his classmates, what sort of groupings -- academic and social -- there are in the class.
* Listen to the teacher's suggestions for helping your child. These suggestions often call for parents to get more involved in homework and study habits.
* With the teacher, set some goals for helping your child be more successful in school.
* On your way home, ask yourself a few questions: "Did I make my concerns known?" "Did I get the information I wanted?" "What was accomplished?" If you aren't satisfied with your answers, request another, longer conference.
* Involve your child. Before the conference, talk with him about his school concerns and explain the reason for the conference. Afterward, discuss what happened and what suggestions the teacher had. No matter what the outcome, be sure to tell your child you love him.
* And most importantly, "never feel intimidated at a parent-teacher conference,'' says Penny Vahsen, a seventh-grade teacher at Magothy River Middle School in Arnold. ''We are here to help."