Tips for Parent Teacher Conferences

It’s getting to be that time a year when parent teacher conferences come around. Sometimes they’re quite easy and sometimes they are more difficult. Perhaps students have been struggling, or maybe parents or students are nervous about the transition into the next grade, or perhaps there’s been some friction. In any case, here are some tips that you can use for any parent teacher conference.

Be. Prepared. It’s a simple idea, but it should never be skipped. As teachers, we plan and prepare for almost everything we do. For me, being prepared means that I have all the student work, assessments, etc. that I want show the parents. I have notes for each student so I don’t miss anything that I want tell parents. I have pen and paper for parents in case they want to take some notes of their own. After teaching for 20 years I still rehearse, lol . even just quickly, each of my conferences in my head: where I’m going to greet them, where each parent is going to sit, and how I’m going to start the conversation. Finally, before the first conference, I start my diffuser and diffuse something that fits the mood. This year I think I’m going to use something uplifing like wild orange.

Anticipate Questions. Just like during a well-planned lesson we always try to anticipate the questions that students are going ask, try to anticipate the questions that parents are going to ask and then have my answers ready. In my case, parents ask about the transition to middle school, what can the student work on over the summer, and they ask if I think their student should have a summer tutor.

Stay on Time. In my district we only have 15 minutes for each conference and I’ve learned that it is very difficult to have a parent-teacher conference in 15 minutes. I developed the habit of having a timer to help us stay on time and posting my schedule outside the door. At first, I felt like the timer seemed rude, but I set it for two minutes before the end of each conference. When it goes off, I let the parents know that I’m more than happy to meet again at another time. Parents appreciate the respect that you have for their schedules as well, especially when they have back-to-conferences for several children.

Keep the Meeting Positive. I have always believed that I am not in this alone. Parents want to know that you are interested in what is best for their child, even when your methods don’t match with theirs. Keep your tone and choice of words positive and growth oriented. Ask the parents for their input…They are the experts on their children even if you are the expert on education.

Report What You Can Support. I have always been a big believer in supporting what I say to parents. I veer away from personal judgements and communicate with them about observations, performance, work samples, grades, etc, without drawing all encompassing conclusions. I try to name the behavior rather than labeling the student. For example, if a student stops doing homework, I will let the parents know just that fact rather than adding to with general judgements like ‘he’s going to struggle next year’.

Avoid Teacher Talk. I sometimes forget that just because I’m speaking with an adult (thank goodness) they don’t necessarily understand all of the jargon we use. During parent teacher conferences, use layman’s terms to explain what’s going on with their child.

Listen. Finally, this isn’t all about what you have to say. Be a good listener. Ask the parents questions that will help you improve how you teach their child.

While this is not an exhaustive list, it’s been helpful for me over the years. I hope it is also helpful for you. If you have additional thoughts, please send them to me in the comments. Good luck during end of year conferences, teacher friends.

Big Hugs.

A Great Need

“I love it when a plan comes together!” The words were echoed by George Peppard every time the old TV show, The A-Team, came to its predictable end.

As a teacher, I too love it when a plan comes together. I particularly love when the plan includes allowing an outlet for children to explore all of their talents.

This morning I was walking down my hallway and stopped to notice the art show that volunteers were putting up on the walls. I had already been witness to several of these projects in mid-completion, but now was my chance to see the finished products.

The Art Teacher, Mrs. Tolentino, selects an assortment of projects to display for each class, in each grade level. I was captivated not only by the display itself, but by the skill and beauty that each student displayed.

The students used weaving skills to weave colorful yarn around a compact disk. This became the center of these beautiful flowers, which were drawn with PrismaColors on black paper. Stunning!

This is what children need! This is the ability to express all of their other talents. Classes like this and music and drama are so quickly the first to be cut when budgets are tight. There is more to a child than math, science, and language arts achievement. These classes allow all students to feel successful and shine.

With loads of Hugs,

Christine

Impromptu Discussions Provide Teacher and Student Satisfaction

Yesterday, in class, my group of 5th graders had an impromptu discussion about survival, mostly brought on by our recent storms resulting in “long-term” loss of electricity for many of them. “Long-term” for these youngsters is anything that interferes with their wi-fi connection or ability to charge their devices or play on their gaming systems. Much of my class was without electricity for a week or better. Fortunately, I teach in an area where generators are aplenty.

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One of my students mentioned survival and phone in the same sentence and that led to a whole new discussion. What is the difference between surviving and living? I’d guess that some people think they are one in the same, and much of the class did too until we started to define our terms a little more. We decided that Survive meant a living, breathing, thinking person. Living, on the other hand, involved deriving some form of enjoyment out of life.

With that under our belts, we had a brainstorming discussion, during which students threw out ideas and soon they began to categorize their thoughts. Students felt that to survive meant that they simply needed basic food, water, shelter of some kind, and some heat (depending). To live meant something completely different. Students believed that to live they would need those things to survive, but they would also need proper medical care (they said medicine), love and attention, they’re devices (several said books), a job in order to have many of those things. They admitted that “those things” did not have to be the newest, best, or most, but they did see that they needed a job in order to supply the things that made a difference between surviving and living.

It’s not always the curriculum that leaves me satisfied at the end f the day. In fact, it’s rarely the curriculum. It’s often the moments between the curriculum, the ad hoc discussions, the quick exchanges beside the desk. That’s when I feel the most satisfaction about the impact I have on students.