There are few words that drive fear into the hearts of teachers everywhere as parent-teacher conferences. If you’re feeling waves of panic over the prospect of pouting parents, fear not—a few expert teachers from the Teacher’s Notebook community gave us their best advice for successful parent-teacher conferences. Whether this is your first year teaching or 10th, there are a few gems here that can elevate your conferences from worrisome to wonderful.
Keep reading to hear what some of our excellent teachers have to say.
From Amanda C. of Live Laugh Learn
My goal for a conference (as in everything I do) is to help the STUDENT succeed. In doing this, you need to somehow effectively connect with the parents to help them understand what they can do to help the student as well. Here are some tips that I have used:
- Begin prepping for PT conferences EARLY! Save or copy student work that exemplifies BOTH problem areas and their strengths. Also, keep track of specific examples of behavior as well (dates are helpful). The more concrete examples, the easier it is to show a parent how their student is working.
- A week before PT conferences, have students fill out a self-evaluation. Many times, they are harder on themselves than I would ever be. It requires the student to reflect on their own work and behavior in the classroom. It also may bring up issues you weren’t aware of which will help you be prepared for conferences. Parents are also more open to listening when they see what their child feels they need to improve on.
- Set out a slide show and exemplary work in the hallway for parents to browse before or while waiting for their conference. (I also always have a few brownies or cookies in the hall to help ease the tension).
- DO NOT begin a conference with a long list of complaints. They did not come to hear how terrible their child is in class. They want to know how to help their child succeed. Before the conference, decide on a few ways to help the child improve.
- Use the “Oreo cookie method.” Start with greeting the parents and saying a few positive things about their child. Then, go through the self-evaluations with the parents, plugging in concrete examples or your own perspective. Choose a couple of their weaknesses to focus on. However, do NOT just harp on how terrible they are! Instead, let them know what they or their child can do to improve. Have this prepared ahead of time. Do not focus on behaviors that are unlikely to change. End with a positive note… or even better: a hopeful note!
- Do not do all the talking. Ask the parents questions and ask if they have suggestions as well!
- LISTEN!!! Listen to the parents. They may have an idea or a suggestion. Try your best to be responsive to the parents. Again, your goal is the same as theirs: to help their child succeed.
- If you run out of time, do not cut them off. Ask if you can talk to them another time.
These are just a few thoughts and suggestions that may help you have a productive and hopefully peaceful parent teacher conference!
During conferences it is important to be organized and have all the information needed to communicate to parents in one easy form. It should be a “snapshot” of the student’s progress. This helps to keep all parties focused on the child and his/her accomplishments.
From Jen of TeachingLife
My best advice for teachers is to gather the data to support the grades being given. It can be as simple as printing out the progress report from your online grade book or writing the grades in a categorized spreadsheet. That way you have all the proof needed to support the grades.
Using the spreadsheets, I write the strengths and weaknesses of each student. I create a classroom plan to help with the weaknesses. When I meet with the families, I go over everything with them and help them create a home plan. This helps build the connection between home and school. My conferences are succinct and organized and allows me time for many conferences.
We want to sincerely thank Live Laugh Learn, Bright Concepts 4 Teachers, and TeachingLife for their great advice. Be sure to check out Live Laugh Learn’s Student Self Evaluation for Parent Teacher Student Conferences, Bright Concepts 4 Teachers’ Parent-Teacher Conference Forms, and TeachingLife’s Owl Themed Parent/Teacher Conference Pack as you prepare for conferences.