I don’t know about you, but man o’ man this year is going by quickly! Maybe it’s just that I’m getting older, but whatever it is – it’s just shocking to think that our first parent teacher conferences are behind us and Christmas is just around the corner. Our conferences finished up yesterday. As I waited for my first parent to arrive, I was remembering how anxious I was, the first time I had to meet with parents. Those first parent-teacher conferences can be terrifying to think about! I’ve always had nothing but great experiences, but it’s the unknown that can be scary. Will they tear into me about how I’ve been teaching Math? Does their child tell them that I’m cranky? Do they think I’m doing a good job of educating their child? The potential judgements can make your head spin!
With that in mind, I asked around a bit for tips on how to make parent teacher conferences most successful, for new and seasoned teachers alike. Some of the ideas are mine, things that I already do, some have come from fellow teachers (including the book recommendations).
How do you make parent-teacher conference MOST successful?
1) Have the students write about what they’ve done a good job of so far in the term, and what they could improve on. This way, they are assessing themselves, and the teacher doesn’t have to look like the bad guy bringing up the things the student needs to improve on. Nine times out of ten, the student will write about the things you’d like them to improve - the need to study more, do more homework or stop chatting so much. This way, you can show the parent, “Well this is what he said he needed to work on…” And you’re on your way!
2) Always start with something positive about the student. If you don’t have something – find something! This child is their parents’ whole world. Be kind.
3) End with a positive. You want your parents walking away feeling good about the conference – so end on a high note!
4) Straighten up your room and make it as inviting as you can. It should be shining and looking as spiffy as it did on Day 1 this year.
5) Have a basket of business cards and candies on the table and tell parents to help themselves. You can pass along your information to them if they didn’t receive it at the first of the year, or if it’s been misplaced. And let’s face it: Candies put everyone in a better mood!
6) Make sure to leave time for parents to ask questions. Have a pad of paper at the ready to record questions that you need to go and find the answers to (questions for other subject teachers, resource teacher or principal etc.). Take down their phone number as well, so that you can contact them when you find the answer to their question.
7) It you teach younger children, have a table set up with adult sized chairs, so that parents feel more comfortable.
8) Always try to stick to appointment times and have parents choose another time to continue the meeting if need be.
9)There should be no major surprises at parent teacher time. Make sure to contact parents ahead of time about behaviors and/or marks that are a major concern. If parents know what their child needs to work on, they can help them. If the child is failing and report card time is the first the parent has heard that their child is struggling, you may have some explaining to do.
10) Be prepared. Have your comments ready to share and any paperwork the needs to be signed by the parents ready to go. Many teachers at my school keep a folder on each child where completed work, tests, and assignments are stored. I teach grade 7 and so I have students file their own work, which makes things easy. When parent-teacher time rolls around, I can pull out each file to help me write report card comments and for my discussions with parents. Make sure to have files like this available to help you discuss what you need to, with parents.
A friend of mine has a great blog post on efficient reporting and is hosting a link-up as well on the topic. Head over to Teaching FSL to get some great tips or to link up your own blog post.
Some book recommendations…
When recommending books, sometimes I recommend books that I found, own and have read. I recommend the book based on having read it and seeing the potential for how it could be used in the classroom. Sometimes I recommend books on the glowing reviews I’ve received about titles, from other teachers. The three books below, I haven’t personally read, although I trust the judgements of my colleagues. The second one on how to deal with difficult parents was mentioned by multiple teachers and looks like a funny and light read (and may be where I’d personally start)!
For help writing your report card comments – this book may provide some inspiration:
To give you some ideas for dealing with difficult parents:
While this book is not specifically for parent-teacher conferences, it is a new release for how to effectively establish “student led” conferences, which is not completely unrelated to the topic at hand – plus I saw that the foreword was from Rick Stiggins – so it’s got to be good!
To all of you new teachers out there who have yet to get your first classroom, or who are in your first year of teaching, I hope that these tips will help you on the way to having the best parent-teacher conferences possible. If we don’t have parent support, it makes it very difficult to do our jobs. Do what you can to get parents on your side and keep them there.
~Thank you to those who left your ideas for me on my Facebook page on this topic – Queen of Click, Melissa Henderson, Sue Kenmotsu, Dalia Guillén Alvarado and Jennifer Cramer Armour.~
Have you had parent-teacher conferences yet this year? How’d they go and what tips could you add?