Parent Teacher Conference Season

By AustinMom

It’s that time again, the announcement and sign up for parent teacher conferences is here. Elementary conferences were pretty straight forward, with usually only one teacher to visit. If you weren’t certain about what topics to raise a quick search provides a plethora of results.

Middle school and high school conferences, at least in our area, are both set up for you to allow you to visit every teacher, or at least as many as you choose to. For both of our schools, you get a 10 minute slot per teacher, making it important to use that time effectively. With the current technology, we see grades posted online and generally have a good idea in advance of how they are doing from a numeric perspective.

At this level, I find that the teacher rarely has something specific they want to convey and the parent must lead the conversation. I have a few questions I ask every year tailored to each of my kid’s general approach to school. For my introvert, it focuses on class participation and advocating for herself. For my child who receives minimal accommodations, it focuses on feedback that these are working, which generally tells you if the teacher is implementing them. I also always ask for feedback on where each child is compared to their peers, about any standardized tests that have been taken, and anything that is coming up before the end of the semester that I should be aware of, especially if they require parental involvement. In the Spring I ask about next year’s class placements, will they be recommending the more rigorous courses, such as accelerated math in middle school or AP Calculus AB or BC in high school.

Totebaggers, Do you go to the conferences? If so, what do you try to glean from them? Do you have a favorite question or topic to discuss? Or, do you think they are a waste of time?

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103 thoughts on “Parent Teacher Conference Season

  1. I typically have specific questions, and always need to find out how my child is managing stress within the classroom. I may ask for clarification on major projects. Mostly I want a general sense of how he is participating in class, getting along with peers, and dealing with in-class writing assignments. I have a clear sense of homework effort, grades and other things visible from home. I need to understand if silence from school is “doing fine – nothing to report” or “we’ve given up.” One thing I really like about his school is that the teachers there are really pulling for him. Some have known him for years, and they were very enthusiastic about how well things are going now. The things they commented on and thought I would want to know made clear they care about him as a person, and not just that he turns a worksheet in on time.

  2. My #1 pet peeve with the conferences here is that they are DURING THE DAY, like at 2 pm. Super inconvenient. InMyDay (when I was a kid, so in the 80s) they were at night.

    We usually do have questions but not that involved – but this time I am going to ask if they can have #1 child tested for learning disabilities so I can make sure we’re not missing anything.

  3. Timely topic. I am a faithful parent teacher conference goer. All these years DH has accompanied me but will be missing this year’s due to work reasons. For both my kids, I am now aware that if they are off to a good start at the beginning of the school year, there will be very little to talk about with the teacher. If not, by this time, alerted by bad grades – I would have already emailed the teacher and one year the teacher strongly suggested we meet prior to the conference. It was a good conversation, I realized what was off track with kid and though the fix involved lots of yelling – things slowly got back on track. We don’t really visit the schools much and it is perhaps the only time DH gets to meet the kids’ teachers.

  4. At the middle school, conferences are set up with the home room teacher. Basically, it is 20 minutes of, here is a printout of the online grade sheet, here is the next fundraiser, oh, if you have questions about a specific teacher, you could ask them. I’m not real sure what the point is.

    At the high school, they reinstated conferences this year. Apparently, the students, advisors and parents meet together. My senior daughter’s advisor has been checked out the entire time she has been in high school. They have an advisement class every week, and although she did learn some card games, it doesn’t look like she got anything else out of it. Once again, I’m not real sure what the point is.

    At each school, the meeting lasts 20 minutes. It is not a terribly productive use of time.

  5. L, if you don’t request the testing in writing, the request never happened. The school has 60 days to complete the testing after you make a WRITTEN request.

  6. L – same here. They offer an evening option, but school is only 1/2 day for the kids making scheduling a pain. Even if you attend at night, you need daycare for the 1/2 day and a sitter at night if both parents are to attend. Plus our meetings are allotted a whopping 5 minutes.

    I’ve heard they’ll be trying a new approach in the spring with some older grades where the conference is between the teacher and the student, with the parents observing. Anyone experienced that style of meeting?

  7. From the Totebag, I learnt that I should be always checking the online grades because there can be assignments that for whatever reason are missing and that means kid will ultimately end up with a zero. Kid is not very diligent at checking online but has done the follow up when alerted so that nothing shows as missing.

  8. “I’ve heard they’ll be trying a new approach in the spring with some older grades where the conference is between the teacher and the student, with the parents observing. Anyone experienced that style of meeting?”

    What a great idea! Nothing like a meeting between equals with an audience for clear communication. /sarcasm font off/

  9. L – Both of our schools offer an evening option. DD#2 (MS) has a Thursday evening and Friday morning option; DD#1 (HS) had only a Monday option, but it runs from 2 pm to 8 pm, with an hour dinner break for the teachers. DD#1’s school expects you to bring the child. I did that last year, but not very many others did, and it didn’t seem to be the best use of her time. This year, I refuse to make three round trips to school in one day – sports team this morning, pick up child and have early afternoon conference and then return for club meeting this evening – so I scheduled the conference while she is in her club event and I am usually hanging out waiting for her.

    I have had one conference since I submitted this. I was pleasantly surprised by two teachers – one who had some good insights about my DD’s possible HS selections and one who complimented her on her diligence of staying on top of her work. I also received confirmation from two other teachers on what I perceived has happened the past few months – overall good grades, but inconsistent level of work that does not seem to be linked to difficulty.

  10. Our conferences are either before school starts (like at 7:15 a.m.) or right after school at 2:45. I went to an a.m. one this year. DD is doing great, so it likely was a waste of time, but even though conferences are optional this year, felt like I should go. DH hasn’t been to a conference since kindergarten and I think he’s still irritated I made him go to that one.

  11. Our daycare also has conferences, even in the infant room, which makes me laugh. I assume if there was huge concerns about something developmental they wouldn’t wait for a conference so I’ve never signed up for one except for the Pre-K one which is required.

  12. L Learning disabilities, and testing, falls under the Individuals with Disabilities Act, which is federal law. There are numerous websites offering support and guidance. An ongoing theme, in those websites and real life is that it is much easier for the school not to deal with a kid with an IEP.

    So, if there is no written request for testing, they can get around to it when then get around to it. Sometimes that would be the 12th of never.

    The children of my sibling’s law school classmates formed an autism cluster. The kids were in several different and very affluent school districts, but the refrain was the same, your child is fine, do we really want to do testing, it is a big hassle for the kid to do testing, etc. Meanwhile time was slipping away. Even having high powered attorney parents was no guarantee of intervention until the parents learned the law.

    Long rant, short. The school district’s incentives in testing your child are different than yours.

  13. About including the child. At HS it makes some sense as they get older they need to learn to solict feedback and advocate for themselves. Sometimes it helps for the child to hear what is said rather than the parent’s interpretation.

  14. Nothing on this front from me… but P-T conferences always remind me of a specific incident in HS where I realized that I’m interchangeable with my BFF even though the only thing we have in common is hair color.

    At HS “Back to School” night, my BFF’s dad went up to our health/driver’s ed teacher to ask about my BFF (we’ll call her Ann):

    dad: “how’s Ann doing in driver’s ed? I know certain things have her stumped.”
    teacher: “Ann? Is she blond?”
    d: “yes”
    t: “which one? Their are two, they are always together.”
    d: “Yes, that’s Ann and Rhode. Ann has brown eyes.”
    t: “That doesn’t help. Anyway, one can’t turn and the other doesn’t know the road signs.”
    d: “Good thing they are always together. Together they make one good driver.”

    That teacher was not hired back the next year…

  15. Ours are this week. They have evening and morning time. We schedule them with whatever teachers we want to see. We have 7 this time between the two kids. They finally went to online sign ups last year. They used to have all the sign up sheets in a binder at the front desk, so you had to get to school, then wait your turn to get the binder and then try to work times out. Then they went to putting the sheets up on the wall so multiple people could sign up at the same time for different teachers. Finally they went online last year.

    As for the conferences themselves, I find them to be worthwhile. The teachers are usually well-prepared with more than just a printout of the grades. Last year we had a great one with the social studies teacher – he has a lot of insight into the social dynamics of the school.

  16. Austin – I remember being at 1-2 Back to School nights in HS. But they kept the parents and students separate. We met with teachers, then our parents did. It was weird. I was doing well enough in HS that the teachers just said “keep up the good work” and moved on. I had enough intervention in the earlier grades that I was doing OK by HS without any assistance.

  17. 10:47 was me.

    We had a conference when DS was in first grade with his math teacher, and it was pretty clear the teacher had no idea who he was.

  18. Our middle and high schools did not offer PT conferences unless the parent requested one or the student was having some kind of difficulty. The clear message from the school is that they don’t want to deal with parents unless there is an unusual problem. They want the students to advocate for themselves and “take charge of their own learning”, so for most matters such as course selection and college planning they prefer to deal only with students. Presumably students are supposed to keep their parents informed about all this.

    Being the “helicopter” parent that I was, I often requested conferences. In the middle school, parents were not allowed to meet with an individual teacher, but had to meet with the entire “team” of all teachers and guidance counselor. That was overkill, IMO.

  19. In kid’s middle school the counselors are a very important channel of communication, especially for the social aspect of school life. They are very proactive in making sure that the kids find friends, are able to talk to them about whatever the issues are etc. Also, the counselors are assigned to the same set of kids and follow them for three years, so they get to know the kids. It seems like a good system and I have made time to go to the counselor open houses, so I can hear other parents discuss in general any advice they are seeking for their kids.

  20. “We had a conference when DS was in first grade with his math teacher”

    Notwithstanding that the teacher did not know your son, I’m impressed you had dedicated math teachers in elementary school. That’s unusual. Did you think the teacher knew and taught her subject well?

  21. CoC, they did performance grouping for math and literacy so it wasn’t a dedicated math teacher, just a teacher other than his homeroom teacher. Most of the elementary school teachers taught math and literacy. The teacher seemed to be a good teacher.

  22. OK, sorry for the early distraction, but am about to go incommunicado for the rest of the day and had to tell the story.

    I’ve mentioned before that DH is the non-holiday guy, but loves Halloween. So Sunday, he shows me a picture and says “I think I want to make this.” I can’t find the right picture, but looked sort of like this: http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61AcAyCDpxL._SY355_.jpg. It was this cool idea where you make an octagonal frame out of PVC pipe and string rope to make a web. We already had a giant spider for the middle, and the idea DH found had little web-wrapped bodies to go with. I say, awesome.

    So, approximately 8 hrs later, here is the result: http://imgur.com/GJEjp0P

    I think we need to go back to Measurement 101.

  23. My (now) kid’s jr-sr high does ’em like this:
    5-7pm. ~10 days after 1st marking period and then 1st semester report cards come out. 1/2 the teachers in the gym, 1/2 in the cafeteria, organized alphabetically by teacher last name. Each sits in a chair with a couple of chairs facing them for parent(s) to sit in. If I’m interested in talking to my kid’s teacher, I line up behind the chairs and wait my turn.

    It really works pretty well. Some teachers have no lines, some are mobbed. I only talk to the ones where my kid is doing poorer than I would expect. I only ever have one question:

    “effort or ability?”

    If effort, we know what to do. Thanks and see ya. Call me if there are any serious issues we need to discuss.

    If ability, I do ask about any specifics we can try other than drill and repeat and try to implement those.

    That latter response has only happened once in a cumulative 16 kid-school years I’ve been doing these.

  24. LfB – looks like he built a trampoline! haha!

    Our public middle school does not have them which is just as well because they have so many kids I don’t think they could tell me anything about my kid that I didn’t already know. The private school sends interim reports with awesome write ups on my child. We go over it with him and boy oh boy do they know him. Feels like a good value for the $ now. I’ll just call them if we have a problem. Louise, once my kids got to middle school and showed they were on top of it, I stopped checking online. Into a life a few zeros may fall and that’s ok.

  25. My oldest is only in second grade, so the conferences are still very useful to distinguish fact from fiction.

    LfB, that is awesome. I wish he could do my house. I hope he made it so he could take it apart for storage, though…..

  26. When my kids were in HS, conferences were only if requested. We were fortunate to never have an occasion to feel like we needed to request. Once or twice over the course of three kids an issue came up, and I emailed the teacher directly. Annually, we met with the guidance counselor and at least one teacher as part of a GIEP meeting, which also included written feedback from other teachers.

    Back in MS, the school for a few years had “student-led” conferences, where the student was supposed to talk to their parents about their progress in their various classes with the homeroom teacher monitoring the conversation and providing context as necessary. As the students had about five or six different teachers by this point, none of whom were the homeroom teacher, the “context” that could be provided was pretty minimal. Those conferences were a waste of time and we stopped going.

    When my oldest was in kindergarten, the teacher informed us at the conference (in November) that there were four or five letters of the alphabet that our son couldn’t identify. This surprised us, as he had been reading for over a year at that point. I asked her (probably a little snarkily), “You do know he can READ, right?” and got nothing in response but a blank look and a reiteration of the five letters he couldn’t identify. That was a disappointing conference.

    Overall, though, especially in the elementary grades, we enjoyed the conferences. It was enlightening to hear about behaviors that we didn’t see at home — like the fact that the “quiet” kid who never said two words at home was actually a huge contributor to class discussions.

  27. No middle school or high school conferences here. Even in the upper grades in the elementary school, we often get a sheet from the teacher saying no conference is necessary unless the parent wants it. I am a good helicopter parent though so I always meet with the teachers at the beginning of the school year. We do a big meeting with all the teachers and guidance counselor for my oldest, to explain his issues and point out his 504 plan accomodations, and just to get the teachers on board. I always meet with my youngest kid’s teacher to explain adoption issues. Interestingly, my middle kid, the one on the IEP, has the least need for those sorts of meetings. He has been trained to advocate for himself since first grade and is very good at dealing with teachers.

  28. We have a district-wide early dismissal day just for conferences, so I assume that means MS & HS have them too. So far, DD’s teachers have all sent out a sign-up sheet to select your 1st – 3rd choices for a date & time the previous week. Apparently none of them know how to use the internet for this sort of thing. So there are spots between 2:00-5:00 on the designated day and at 4:00, 4:20 & 4:40 for a few days on either side. Some of DD’s teachers have been kind enough to stay until 6:00 pm, and some offer 8:00 & 8:20 AM spots too. H & I went last week for a 4:40 spot and had to awkwardly make small talk and pretend to be absorbed in the art and writing assignments hanging in the hallway while we waited for the parents before us to finish. Again, so far (through 3rd grade), teachers have reviewed testing results (reading & math levels) and shared the surprising observance that DD is polite, helpful, organized, etc. but with no suggestions as to how to recreate that behavior at home. I like getting feedback on the social situation since it’s hard to get the whole story from DD sometimes. Teacher did confirm that DD now has a weekly meeting established with the guidance counselor but it’s confidential unless there are concerns about harming self or others.

  29. I always enjoy the conferences. I love hearing about a different side of my kids, and it gives me better insight into the teachers/expectations.

  30. We had conferences last week – with plenty of choices for before school or evening slots. The teacher even provides books and craft supplies to occupy kids out in the hallway if you don’t have a babysitter. I got a lot out of it as the math specialist was with us (DD gets extra help), so lots of good feedback. Additionally, we discussed some social issues DD is having. And I felt bade afterwards because our 20 minute time turned into 40 minutes and the teacher missed her break, but she never even commented on the time. All in all, I am really happy with the school, the teachers, and the open communication.

    Pre-K confernces are tonight at daycare. I find them useless, but if you don’t go they hound you and won’t leave you alone about getting it scheduled.

  31. I’m kind of dreading the twins’ conference. They’ve had moments of suboptimal behavior and we’ll find out how many of those there have been. Fortunately, the teacher interpreted Twin 2 singing obnoxious songs with a classmate as “misbehavior” and not “threatening a teacher.” (On top of spa-ghe-e-e–tti…) I will probably again learn that DS1 continues to fail to perform up to his measured aptitude.

    My best takeaway today so far is from Fred- “Effort or ability?” I think I’ll be saying that a lot in a few years…

  32. My district has the same policy as CoC and Mooshi. No conferences after elementary school, but I can request one via phone any time. As an alternative, I could ask the guidance counselor to set up a meeting with 1 or more academic subject teachers. I actually found it easier to speak to the teachers by phone or before school in elementary school. A non conference day because those 15 minute sessions are too crazy. The teachers are running late, stressed and everything just feels rushed.

    the nice thing about no conferences is NO half days except for the last day of school in June.

  33. @WCE – are there no kids in the class who want good behavior rewards ? Both DS and DD’s classes had those kids and they were the ones who made sure their table behaved, stopped talking, opened their books – otherwise whole table lost points and lost to other tables. It is quite effective.

  34. Louise, I’ll find out. I was explicitly unmotivated by such things. My 5th grade teacher pointed out that if I kept reading my book instead of doing x enrichment, my team wouldn’t get y prize and no one would like me, or some such thing. I replied that I didn’t care if anyone liked me or not and kept reading. Details may be a little off, but my fifth grade teacher and I both had a miserable year.

  35. LfB, that is awesome. Your DH definitely took the concept to the next level. Perhaps you can suggest to him that he add some vaguely feline or canine shapes shrouded is a fiber that looks like webbing, or maybe even something in the size and shape vaguely reminiscent of a little kid.

  36. Oh, I have nothing but rants for this topic. In fact, this post reminds me to email a complaint to the school district.

  37. Houston, to the extent that processed meat causes cancer, it either has or has not been doing it for millenia. The WHO pronouncement won’t affect my choices. The big cancer variables are age and genetics. The other ones (nutrition, stress, sleep) all interact in my life. I have to choose between getting more/better sleep and caring for a grumpy, snotty baby. The grumpy, snotty baby is winning.

    Motto: Everyone has to die of something.

  38. Louise, I just saw your question about hover boards. This product is causing a lot of stress in my house because DD wants one, and we said no. I started to notice a couple of her friends received them as group bday gifts at the end of the summer. DD has been begging for one, but we said no way to something that expensive. I’ve been very surprised at how many kids have them since the end of camp was just two months ago.

    It isn’t just the cost that bothers me. I never see any of the kids wearing a helmet when they use the board even though they all wear helmets for bikes and scooters. Also, I wonder if it is just a fad, and an expensive item that will end up sitting in my basement within a year.

    Are your kids asking you for one?

  39. Lauren, I am seeing those things all over the place – usually throngs of middle schoolers toddling down the middle of the road in a pack on the boards. Never any helmets or consideration of traffic. Someday there is going to be a terrible accident. I don’t understand why kids are not using helmets on those when they wear helmets on bikes and skateboards. And why are they allowed out in the road????

  40. And of course my daughter wants one. But she also keeps asking for a motorcycle and an ATV. She knows she won’t get any of these. We did just buy her a new bike with gears.

  41. I bet the helmet laws actually require a helmet, but I am not sure why the kids are not wearing the helmets when they’ve been trained from such a young age to wear helmets even when riding int he driveways in my neighborhood.
    I haven’t seen the hover boards in the streets – yet. I see the kids using them near the schools; in the big open, flat parking lots, and open paths near the fields and tracks.

    In the few minutes since I posted my response to Louise, I just got a call from my one of my neighbors to see if my DD can come over because her DD just got her hoverboard. This one is not a group bday present, but supposedly a very early holiday present.

  42. “@WCE – are there no kids in the class who want good behavior rewards ? Both DS and DD’s classes had those kids and they were the ones who made sure their table behaved, stopped talking, opened their books – otherwise whole table lost points and lost to other tables. It is quite effective.”

    The problem with this approach is that parents like me become unglued when their kids come home with stories about how they were punished because child x didn’t behave. Then the teacher has to deal with another set of parents who want to discuss individual responsibility and why group punishments are a bad idea.

    And yes, the lack of a reward because someone else was misbehaving is a punishment.

  43. So these scooters (“hoverboards”) are about $600-$1500? Interesting.

    I kind of want to buy a used ATV or go-cart.

  44. Then it’s maybe comparable to what a Game Boy cost when we were kids, adjusted for inflation.

  45. My kids would love the hover board. They play outside quite a bit and something like that would be a shared gift with all the neighbor kids because everyone would who is old enough would want to try it out. It is more expensive than a video game system but given that the kids are outdoors a lot it would get good use.

  46. Houston, I’m with WCE on the carcinogenicity of meat. The original monograph isn’t available – the website seems to be overloaded – but from what I can tell they are drawing this conclusion based on reported per capita consumption of meat vs. reported cancer incidence across countries.

    IMO both statistics are suspect – does the government of Belize, for example, really know how many grams of meat its citizens eat per day? Is consumption equal across classes? Are all cancers detected?

  47. ” Is consumption equal across classes? Are all cancers detected?”

    Good points. And if meat consumption is still correlated with affluence, are the meat-eaters the only ones living long enough to get cancer?

  48. @Murphy – DD didn’t seem put out at losing. Their collective behavior improved. They tried as a team but didn’t win but that was OK.

  49. So what’s a hoverboard? Like the Segway without the upright thingy in front to hold? Heck, *I* want one of those.

  50. like the fact that the “quiet” kid who never said two words at home was actually a huge contributor to class discussions.

    Every year I say that I want to meet the kids that we hear about at conferences because they aren’t ours.

  51. This is so true. My second kid was always completely resistent to schoolwork in elementary school. He would roll on the floor, he would cry, he would throw things – he would spend hours avoiding his homework. Well, at home that is. At the PT conference, I always heard about this amazing, enthusiastic young man who loved doing all his schoolwork and never had a negative word to say. I was certain they were mixing my kid up with someone else.

  52. Thanks WCE and Sky. We don’t eat a lot of meat, but we do eat lunchmeat, which I’d rather not give up.

  53. Seriously, show me the studies which show only age and genetics are the major cancer variables? And no, Merkel saying so does not count. *wink*

    Houston, if you would look at various studies showing how populations all over the world that have adapted more westernized diet at the cost of their native diet are showing higher incidences of cancer, maybe that would give you some different perspective on the subject,. There has been no genetic history of cancer here. Of course there are other major contributors like pollution/ climate change (another one for climate change deniers) and viruses etc, but food at least we.can control somewhat.

  54. Dell, here you go.
    http://www.who.int/genomics/public/geneticdiseases/en/index3.html#Cancer

    Obviously, if the “cancer process” takes 20 years, cancer will be less common in, for example, people under 20 than in people over 20. Refer to Gompertz law of human mortality.

    I would say we don’t understand the interactions between genetics and lifestyle factors well enough to know which is dominant for a given person. From the number of people who have great lifestyles and still get cancer, and the number of people with mediocre/poor lifestyles who do NOT get cancer, we know the link between lifestyle factors and cancer is not causal nor is the correlation strong.

    You tend to see a lot of research on cancers with strong lifestyle factors (breast, colon) and not a lot of research on cancers without strong lifestyle factors (brain, bone, blood). You also see transitions in whether a cancer has strong lifestyle factors or not (the percentage of lung cancer that occurs in people who never smoked is increasing as smoking has become less common)

  55. Sorry, WCE, your own cited study contradicts your claim to Houston! I am on phone just read quickly the part for cancer.

    “”Studies have shown that the primary determinants of most cancers are lifestyle factors, such as tobacco, dietary and exercise habits, environment carcinogens and infectious agents, rather than inherited genetic factors. In fact, inherited cancer syndromes caused by high penetrance genes transmitted In fact, the proportion of cancers caused by high penetrance genes is low, about less than 5% for breast cancer and less for most other cancer types except retinoblastoma in children.””

  56. Dell, I interpreted that to mean that the proportion of cancers caused SOLELY or PRIMARILY by high penetrance genes is around 5%.

    We probably all have genes that give us a certain risk for a certain type of cancer depending on age, and that’s why some people get cancer and some people don’t. I actually submitted an article on the biology of cancer last week, so you can read that for more biology when it’s posted.

    If we pick a usually fatal cancer- adenocarcinoma of an internal organ- we know that some people get it and some people don’t. We observe correlations with lifestyle factors like BMI, but we also observe that most obese people DON’T get adenocarcinoma of their internal organs and plenty of people who get adenocarcinoma have few or no risk factors.

    My argument is that genetics and lifestyle factors are probably threshold variables that vary by individual. I also hypothesize that as babies who were born prematurely get old, that we will observe that prematurity (born more than one month preterm) will be a bigger risk factor than, say, eating cured meat. But we all have risk factors of one sort or another, and they all stack together in different ways.

  57. I think headlines like these never highlight how much of something a person has to eat to move into the risky category. As a result people cut out foods indiscriminately and the substitutions are proven to be not any better. Moderation is out the window.

  58. There was a study comparing California Seventh Day Adventists (who are generally vegetarians with stable families, strong religious communities and with a religious obligation to avoid gluttony and maintain a healthy weight) to other Californians. On average, female Seventh Day Adventists lived 4 years longer than the average female Californian. So I view 4 years as the upper limit of what a healthy lifestyle can do on average, in terms of longer, presumably healthier life.

    The studies that say we can cut cancer deaths usually don’t consider what people will die of instead. The numbers I saw looking for a reference say 15 million people will be diagnosed with cancer in 2020 and 12 million will die of cancer. So 3 million people diagnosed with cancer will die of something else, and 12 million will die of cancer, but not necessarily that year.

  59. WCE,

    Long story short, “You can live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred.”

  60. WCE – along with what you’re saying, isn’t it also true that, as a male, if I’m lucky enough to live to or past 90, I’m all but guaranteed to get prostate cancer? If I can successfully beat every other potential pitfall, then eventually I’ll have to get that one. Now is that a success story, or is that a failure that we need to blame in all those pulled pork sandwiches?

  61. Rhett –

    http://www.theonion.com/article/study-links-meat-sugar-consumption-to-early-death–35447

    WASHINGTON—According to a study published Wednesday in the Journal Of The American Medical Association, researchers have discovered a strong correlation between regular meat and sugar consumption and premature death among those who choose to lead happy and fulfilling lives. “Our data indicate that people who eat large amounts of red meat and saccharides have, on average, markedly shorter and more satisfying life spans,” said the study’s lead author, Aubrey Schrader…

  62. And Dell’s point is correct that if we look at the people who die from cancer, modifiable risk factors are more important than they are for the average Totebagger, who has already done a reasonable job of modifying those risk factors.

    Totebaggers who want to have lifestyle risk factors be more important than genetics should become a 300 lb smoker with significant exposure to HPV.

    Milo, I don’t know much about prostate cancer. I sat across from one guy who had surgery for it and had a PhD in a particular area of biology so lots of guys diagnosed with it came to talk to him about their treatment choices. They were all worried about impotence, but now (15 years later), treatment recommendations are less aggressive.

  63. ” as a male, if I’m lucky enough to live to or past 90, I’m all but guaranteed to get prostate cancer?”

    My family history suggests that probably will not be the case for me. If I live past 90, I’m more likely to get (or, as Magic Johnson might say, attain) dementia.

  64. If I do get prostate cancer after dementia, I hope my family makes sure not I am not treated for the prostate cancer.

  65. Another sensational food story you may have seen over the last 24 hours reported that 2/3 of vegetarian hot dogs were found to contain human DNA.

    CNN:  It also found human DNA in 2% of its hot dog samples — and two-thirds of the vegetarian samples.

    USA Today:   found human DNA in 2% of the samples, and in two-thirds of the vegetarian samples.”

    I first heard this reported on the radio, which got me to look online for more about this incredible news.

    Here’s the original report from Clear Food.

    Human DNA found in 2% of samples

    2/3 of the human DNA samples were vegetarian products.

  66. If you’re really interested in the genetic risks, you can always do 23&Me. I did it and then uploaded the data to one of those services that tell you the medical facts. Various interesting tidbits. I’m apparently very resistant to HIV. (DH: “You can start your new career as a sex worker!”) I don’t absorb vitamin B well. Proton Pump Inhibitors are likely to wash through my system rapidly. I might need more Warfarin than most people. I’m at risk for obesity (no shit, Sherlock.) I’m highly susceptible to Norovirus (so much for my cruise idea.) Most disturbingly, I’m at increased risk for Alzheimer’s, and so is my sister. (Sis ran out and did the testing when I showed her my results.) I’m heterozygous for APOE*E4. If you’re homozygous for it, you WILL have Alzheimer’s by age 80. So it’s a damn good thing I have the long-term care insurance, and I’ll tell the kids that if they want to inherit anything, they need to keep an eye on me and prevent me from spending all my money on the Home Shopping Network in my dotage.

  67. REI is going to be closed on Black Friday. This will come as a huge disappointment for their typical customers who are always eager to line up outside their stores at midnight desperately hoping to get a good deal on hiking boots.

    In all seriousness, I like the fact that they’re doing this. This country’s too into shopping as it is. OTOH, it’s not like their demographic is really the door-busting type, anyway. We’re making Black Friday shopping into a class distinguisher now.

  68. I think the REI plan is a great idea, and they are attracting a lot of free media attention right now when it is quiet for a lot of other retailers.

    the dates for Hanukkah are different every year, but it can start as early as the end of november. It requires me to start shopping earlier in certain years, and there are definitely more sales being pushed away from black friday. We found great sales for Apple and other electronics from Best and Target on different weekends in November.

  69. “We’re making Black Friday shopping into a class distinguisher now.”

    Yes. And juxtaposed with Small Business Saturday and it’s really evident who’s shopping when.

  70. REI is still legally a co-op, I believe? Hard for other retailers to do that. Costco is making a big deal of actually being closed on T-day. They are both getting a ton of publicity for this (on my facebook feed, at least).

  71. I agree completely that we’ve made Black Friday into a class distinguisher. And I’m still trying to collect my jaw from the floor at Milo complaining about consumerism. But you know, sometimes stuff like that can be fun. You get together with your sisters or cousins or friends and get up early and hang out waiting for Walmart to open. I mean, not for me,, gracious no. For those other people. But it is the kind of thing that can be fun.

  72. An observation – the store in the mall that is crowded year round is The American Girl Doll store. Shoppers big and small come out with big shopping bags, big smiles and bigger invoices.

  73. “And I’m still trying to collect my jaw from the floor at Milo complaining about consumerism”

    What do you mean? I’m not consumerist at all.

  74. “But you know, sometimes stuff like that can be fun. You get together with your sisters or cousins or friends and get up early and hang out waiting for Walmart to open.”

    And I don’t disagree with that, it’s just that I don’t like getting up super early or staying up very late.

  75. I think many people underestimate their lifetime risk of cancer – it is something around 1/6 over a lifetime. Most people with cancer don’t die of it. The numbers for the big 4 cancers – lung, prostate, colon, breast – 1.6 million diagnoses per year, 0.6million deaths.

    There is cancer, and there is CANCER. The 35 year old with a cancerous breast lump is much more likely to have a bad course. Even though we can’t tell the difference cytologically, breast cancer in young women seems to be an entirely different disease. Same thing with prostate cancer – there are a few prostate cancers that are terrible. They kill men in slow and painful ways in the prime of their lives. Most other prostate cancers sit and do nothing for decades – until the man dies of something else. We don’t have great ability to tell the difference between these two types of prostate cancer. I am hopeful that genetic typing of tumors on an individual level will change this.

    Colon cancer is much like cervical cancer – there is good preventative screening and treatment. I will take my chance with the bacon. (Though I am kind of defensive about this, my kids eat a ton of processed meat). In contrast, the smartest guy in my med school class posted on facebook today that he was breaking up with processed meat.

  76. “But you know, sometimes stuff like that can be fun. You get together with your sisters or cousins or friends and get up early and hang out waiting for Walmart to open.”

    Unfortunately, the shoppers in my extended family live far away but I can totally see my aunts and mom paying a visit to the stores on Black Friday, having a bite to eat and returning triumphantly with a few things. Then, for the benefit of those who stayed home, there would be a “fashion show” where the shoppers would “model” or display their finds. Totally fun.

  77. I buy any winter clothes we need during Black Friday weekend. It’s a great time to get coats, jeans, etc. Most of my Christmas shopping is done on Amazon and Bed Bath Beyond.

    We should do a thread in mid-November on sharing gift ideas. My kids are getting harder to buy for, as they age. I need gift ideas!

  78. This article made the rounds last year:
    http://money.cnn.com/2014/11/25/news/companies/love-to-work-thanksgiving/
    While I am sure all the REI employees are glad to be paid to not work on Friday, many people are glad to be paid to work. The socialist in me thinks we should have government mandated holiday pay, and then everyone wins.

    I’ll be working Turkey Day, and the day after. I will send my Au Pair out for Black Friday – one more authentic American Experience she can have.

  79. Thanks for the cancer risk primer, and thanks for the 23andme write up. My curiosity is peaked about my own risk factors.

  80. I would think that if any store’s customers would like to camp out while waiting for it to open, it would be REI.

    I suppose they could have sales the Saturday after T-Day, and their customers could camp out on Friday night.

  81. “I would think that if any store’s customers would like to camp out while waiting for it to open, it would be REI.”

    That made me LOL.

  82. The cancer discussion is fascinating, as my family has had a brush with it recently. Luckily, it was a highly treatable, low-morbidity sort of lymphoma, and all is well with my relative after six weekly infusions of a wonder drug. No chemo or radiation. I was amazed. I’ve been able to convince said relative to lay off the Hot Pockets a bit, but since those have been replaced with Marie Callendar’s pot pies, that’s not exactly much of a victory!

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