Conducting effective parent-teacher conferences is an awesome way to boost parental or guardian involvement in your classroom & in the school community.
A parent-teacher conference is a great opportunity to:
Parent-teacher conferences are usually twice a year. Often, they align with the end of the reporting period. They are brief meetings, lasting about 10-20 minutes. Conferences are typically scheduled a few weeks in advance. Some schools may request additional meetings to chat about challenges or changes that cannot wait for the scheduled meetings.
Most schools set aside specific dates and times for conferences, but if school schedules conflict with family schedules, it's worth the effort to request a different time that is mutually convenient- even if it is a phone call.
School support staff may attend the conference if necessary. An administrator might attend at your request, or the request of a parent or guardian. Some teachers like students to attend part of the meeting to show that parents and educators are both part of the instructional team. There are a variety of ways to conduct parent teacher conferences.
BUT here are a few tips to keep your meetings effective:
Get informed. Make sure you're familiar with your jurisdiction's protocols & policies on report cards, grading, and other related areas. Make sure you are clear on how you will conduct your instruction to target all your students.
Prepare your materials. Preparing materials well before the conference will make you feel more at ease when families show up at your classroom door. As you're teaching during the school year, keep in mind what you will share and discuss at the conferences. Review your notes, observations, and work samples. Prepare a brief agenda, especially if you have a lot to cover.
Send informative invitations. Be sure to communicate the importance of attending conference, a brief overview of what type of information will be shared, and how they can confirm their attendance (or request a different time if available).
A week or so before the conferences, send home reminders of where and when the conference will be held, as well as the meeting agenda.
Create a welcoming environment. Make your classroom inviting. Display student work, pictures, and fun materials. Make sure you have adult size furniture at which you can all sit and chat. If parents need to bring their child or other siblings, have an area set aside with puzzles, games, worksheets, or computers to limit distractions. Remember to have paper and pens available so parents can take notes. You also might want to have a box of tissues available for when you have to deliver upsetting news.
Open with positives. When you start the conversation, remind parents that the goal of this meeting is to share information about their child's success at school over the last so many months. Share something good before you raise your concerns. Finish the meeting with a lovely story about their child.
Discuss progress and growth. Inform parents about their child's progress in relation to their child's earlier levels. Keep it related to their child. It is okay to share what is expected of a child at their age or in their grade (when appropriate or asked), but keep the focus on their child.
It's all too easy to let discussions veer off-track, so stick to a timer and your agenda.
Avoid teacher-talk. Keep the language respectful, inclusive, and real. Not all parents are teachers- so teacher lingo should be avoided.
Ask questions and listen. Ask input about students' strengths, needs, and learning styles, as well as their hopes and dreams for their children.
Make a plan. Provide suggestions for activities and strategies to support learning at home. Providing the parents and guardians with a few ideas of how they can support you at home is a great to support the student and build up collaboration.
Be honest and have a thick skin. It's your responsibility to give parents or guardians an accurate information. Sometimes this means delivering bad news. Be real, don't sugar coat, and make sure everyone understand what you are saying. Provide some suggestions on how you can target your concerns or provide a few steps towards supporting an action plan.
Follow up. A little thank-you can go a long way. If the meeting included a lot of essential information, send home meeting minutes to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Be sure to contact parents who did not attend and see about setting up a phone call or another meeting (if feasible).
Communicate regularly. Keep up the communication!
Enhance your instruction. Now that you know a little more about your students, use that information to support their learning.