Parent-Teacher Conferences are right around the corner and it’s time to gather a few materials and to get ready for this important connection time with parents.
I thought I would share some things I’ve learned along the way about how to make Parent-Teacher Conferences a success.
1. Be Prepared
Conferences are definitely a time to share information with parents and to work on solving any challenges the student is facing as a team. However, any major problems, whether the child is struggling academically, behaviorally, or socially, should be communicated to the parent before the conference time.
As you know, it’s always best to communicate ongoing issues with parents early, so you can work together to help the child. Unveiling them for the first time at a conference is not the best way to handle these types of issues.
Another way to be prepared is to write out notes about each child beforehand. I have a form for each child that I like to use to fill in some information from assessments (like reading fluency, comprehension, knowledge of math facts, etc), as well as strengths that I notice in the child and areas which are challenges.
It’s really nice to have that information ready and in front of me so I can remember exactly what I wanted to say for each child, without having to think of it on the fly. The form I use is included in the free (and editable) packet of Parent-Teacher Conference materials in my store.
2. Be Warm and Welcoming
From the moment you open the classroom door, you want parents to feel comfortable and welcomed into your classroom. A friendly smile and greeting help establish a warm atmosphere for the conference.
As far as where to sit, I think it’s best if you don’t sit at your desk and pull up some chairs around it, as the desk can be viewed as a type of barrier and might feel intimidating to parents. Sitting at a group of desks together or at a table with the same-sized chairs works really well and makes it feel more like a conversation for everyone involved.
3. Include the Student
I always love to have the students attend parent-teacher conferences and have found them to be extremely successful for the 2nd – 5th graders that I’ve taught. Having students attend conferences makes them part of the conversation and helps them take more ownership of learning and for behavior.
Before the conference, I give my students specific reflection forms to fill out, so each child is able to give some input about how he/she views classroom learning, behavior, and personal character traits so far this year. I really like to give kids the opportunity to reflect on themselves because I think it brings things into their awareness more and hopefully prods them on to continue the good work or to make a few changes to improve.
At the conference, I ask the student to go over what he/she has written on the reflection form, and we all listen and make comments about what the child has to say. I think it is always amazing how insightful and how spot-on students are about their own strengths and challenges, for the most part.
4. Keep the Conference as Positive as Possible
Keeping the tone of the conference positive is important. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when you’ll need to discuss some difficult behavior issues or some really deep academic issues… This type of conversation is never easy, but if you take a “let’s work together approach” to whatever the problem is and enlist the parent’s help as part of a team effort rather than viewing them as an adversary, this goes a long way.
Another thing that helps is to offer concrete suggestions for what can be done to make the situation better. Getting the student’s input and buy-in when you can is beneficial too. One thing I like to do is to start with some positives, sandwich in the challenging area(s), and then end with a positive. I try not to have more issues to discuss than the positives that I’ve mentioned to try to balance things out.
Also, remembering to keep it as positive as it can be with no shaming and blaming but more of a matter of fact…”This is what I am seeing/noticing. What can we do to make this better?” kind of attitude, has always been really effective for me.
5. Be a Good Listener
Parent-Teacher Conferences are not just times for teachers to share information about the child, but it is a great opportunity for teachers to learn more about our students by listening to parents.
I like to always leave some time at the end of the conference to ask parents if they have any questions or if there was something we didn’t cover that they’d like to talk about. When parents feel that we genuinely care for their child and care about them, they will offer their support freely.
One thing I like to do is to keep a notepad handy during the conference so I can write notes about things I need to do. It might be something to remember to do or something to look into but these notes help jog my memory after the conferences are over.
6. End the Conference Well
After parents have all of their questions answered (if they had any), I give them some forms to take with them (assessments page, the student reflection page, a few samples of work, and the report card).
As they walk out, I like the student to show his/her parents a few art pieces he/she has done on the way out of the classroom. The parents usually ooh and ah and it gives the conference a nice warm and fuzzy ending.
Do you need a few conference forms? I would love for you to grab this FREE Parent-Teacher Conference Packet in my store. Besides being free, it’s editable too!
Thanks so much for stopping by. Happy conferences!