Many schools (I hope it's actually MOST schools!) host annual or semi-annual parent teacher conference days. Some schools refer to them as Family Conferences (better, for sure!).
Some families look forward to those meetings, some dread them, and others could not care less. Alas, the same goes for teachers!
I know. It's shocking, isn't it? But it's understandable. These meetings are between people who don't know each other well, and they can involve emotional issues.
Let's talk about how to make these conferences comfortable and successful so that you will be among the teachers who look forward to these meetings!
START WITH GOALS
Setting forth your own goals for this meeting will help you set the stage for success. It will help even more if you communicate those goals to parents. For instance, if they know that your goals are to welcome them into their child's classroom, share their child's successes and talk about their student's next steps, I would think they might be glad to come.
On the other hand, if you just announce parent/teacher conference days and expect them to sign up, you might not get the kind of turn out you hope for. With nothing to help parents know what to expect, they may just assume the worst: "Here we go again, another teacher is going to tell us what horrible parents we are." WHAT?
That's right. As soon as you begin to tell parents what's going wrong with their child, they translate that message into: "WHAT did you do to create such a horrible mess in your child?" And, just as you would, the parents either shut down or completely avoid the situation. I'm sure you can imagine how that must feel.
So, the first thing to do to have successful parent/teacher conferences is to invite parents and include a non-threatening agenda. If you're pressed for time, you can grab a free, editable agenda in my Resource Library that you are welcome to use!
GREET PARENTS WITH A FRIENDLY SETTING
Set up your meeting space in an inviting manner.
- Place signage outside your classroom that welcomes parents and asks them to sit outside until their turn.
- Set up a table in your class for you to sit around as you talk about their child. If you can have adult-sized furniture for the occasion, all the better! I suggest that you have parents sit beside you so that your position at the table is less confrontational to the parents.
- Place a sign-in sheet on the table so you can get a record of attendance. Here'a free, editable sign-in sheet for you to use--TIME SAVER!
- Have a folder for each child with celebrations and next steps listed plus some examples of student work that they can take home.
- Put out some sort of refreshment like mints or chocolates on the table.
- Have pens, pencils and paper available for signatures and note-taking.
Now that your space is organized, take a look at your own outward appearance. your appearance should be neat and professional. Depending on your campus that could be anywhere from business casual to business attire. Honor your parents by dressing a bit more formally for their meeting.
HOLD A CORDIAL CONFERENCE WITH THE PARENTS
As you welcome parents to their conference, take a deep breath, smile and look your students' parents in the eyes as you shake their hands. You are going to tell them important information about their child. Remember how it feels to be put on the spot and go out of your way to be kind. Always start with the good, then tell the next steps, and end with good things. Keep the meeting cordial, professional and personable.
- Greet parents and introduce yourself with a handshake.
- Seat the parents to your side. I put us around a corner of the table so that one parent sits at the end of the table, then I sit to their right, and the other parent sits to my right. If parents choose a seat on their own, that's fine. They are placing themselves where they will be comfortable.
- Ask them to sign your attendance sheet and write their student's name beside theirs.
- Go over the agenda, placing one in front of them to follow.
- Open with your positive observations about their child. Think about socialization, creativity, athleticism, curiosity, perseverance, and then academics by subject to give you ideas.
- Move on to next steps--no more than three specific things their student will be working on to enhance their education. This point is the time to review the report card. Then offer those next steps based on what they see in evidence. That might be reading more, practicing certain problems in math, increasing their time on task, etc. Make sure that those next steps align with any problems the student may have on their report card. Keep those statements in the positive form. For example say, "increase the time Mary stays on task" instead of "stop playing during work time." Keep the discussion short by having your plan for those next steps ready and explaining them to the parents.
- Ask the parents if they have anything they would like to share about their student. TAKE NOTES. If you promise to do something, put it on your calendar at that moment.
- Close with one more nice thing about their student and a statement reflecting your commitment to them.
- Give them your contact information and close the meeting by thanking them for coming and being a part of the life of your classroom.
get help if you need it
One last thing: we all have parents whom we need help with. If you have someone coming to the conference whom you feel unsure about, invite your principal, assistant principal, counselor or another teacher who works with the child to be there with you. Remember, you still run the meeting. It's your agenda.
Get the FREE time-saving agenda and parent signature page in my Resource Library by clicking HERE.
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