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.