Even though school just started, conferences will be here before you know it. Preparing now will help to make conferences less stressful and hopefully more successful. Check out these tips for before, during, and after the scheduled parent-teacher conferences.
Before the conference
- Early positive interaction before conferences helps to develop a rapport with the parents before the actual conference occurs. Try to make contact with each family before the conferences.
- Get the student involved. Student-led conferences have some significant advantages. They allow students to take ownership, reflect, and share their accomplishments. It is important to give students a structure to use during the conference. Students should write notes so they feel confident and prepared Because of the short amount of time generally allowed for each student, I gave my students a checklist including introducing the people present at the conference, sharing their portfolio or pieces of work, talking about how the school year is going, and discussing goals/things they would like to improve during the upcoming months.
- If the conference will not be student-led and the student will not be present, provide an avenue for students to have input and reflect. I’ve asked my students to list something they are proud of, jot down anything they want their parents to know, and set a goal or something they would like to accomplish in the coming weeks.
- Before the conference, send parents a reminder. No-shows can happen for many reasons. Not all parents are comfortable in the school setting. Work schedules and other responsibilities may get in the way. Others simply forget. A reminder text, e-mail and/or message from their student or the teacher will often help jog their memory.
- Jot down some notes including something positive/special about the student. With many conferences back to back, it is easy to forget in the moment. If Sam Student loves baseball, mentioning it in the conference helps parents feel you know their child. Try to begin with a positive observation about the student. Taking notes makes it less stressful for you since you will not have to search your memory for a student-specific trait or anecdote.
- Prepare some handouts. These are particularly helpful for parents to look at while waiting for you to finish the conference ahead of them. Ideas might include articles about books appropriate for the age group, upcoming community events (local libraries often have great opportunities), and school events or chances for enrichment.
During the conference
- Talk about learning–not just grades. What will the student be doing? Share stories about the student.
- Don’t be afraid to let the parents get to know you. As a parent, it is comforting to know the person their student is spending the majority of their waking hours with someone they feel they know.
- Remember you are working with someone very dear to the parent. It is sometimes hard for parents to be objective or listen to something they wish they were not hearing. They aren’t keeping the good kids at home. This is the best they have and consider what information you are giving and how it will be perceived. Pick the most important points. Ask for insight from the parents. If talking about a problem, is this something they have seen in the past (or if appropriate something they have seen at home?) Do they have suggestions for something that has worked well for them at home or for teachers in the past?
- The teacher should ask parents for any concerns/suggestions. Stress working as a team to provide the best environment for the student. Commit only to things you are willing to do. Don’t say you will email weekly unless that is something you are prepared to do every week. Be sure parents know the best time and way to contact you.
After the meeting
- Send a text, e-mail, or note thanking parents for their time.
- If you made any commitments, be sure to follow up. For example, tell them you moved Sally Student’s desk to the front or send a message noting the student started reading quickly during independent reading and read quietly during the entire allotted time.