Part V: After the Conference
Immediately following each conference, before the next parent comes to your desk, jot down in your daily task book the follow-up tasks that need to be done. (For example, “Check with Johnny’s math teacher about homework assignments.”) Make sure to follow up and record this the next day.
Ending the Conference
Whatever you do in your conferencing with the parents, you want to end the conference on a positive note. You need to have secured their cooperation and their support.
Record the Conference
Always make a record of the parental conference. You will need to allow time, after the conference, to immediately make notes of what transpired. Be sure to schedule plenty of time for the conference. File all notes individually in each student’s personal folder. The importance of documenting everything in your work cannot be emphasized too much. You never know when such documentation may be needed to back up your position. Do not take lightly the documentation of conversations, notes, conferences, and student behavior.
Be sure that whenever you are sending information or notes home to the parents, you have used correct grammar and spelling. You need to write any message clearly and concisely. Be neat in your work as it is a reflection of you as a teacher and the educational system. Always keep a copy of any communication you have with any parent, such as notes that were sent home or telephone calls.
What has been your experience with parent-teacher conferences? Share your tips in our comment roll.
For more tips on parent-teacher conferences and writing report card comments, check out the following books:
Part IV: During the Conference
Here are some tips to consider while the conference is in session:
- Greet the parents at the door to welcome them into “your turf.” Remember that it is very important to make them feel welcome and comfortable.
- Watch your body language. Research has shown that body language sometimes speaks louder than words. The non-verbal cues that you emit will often set the mood of the conference. You want the parent to realize that you are interested in their child and what they have to say about their child.
- Be specific in what you want to say to the parent. Do not flounder.
- Do not use educational jargon that the parent may not understand. Talk in layman’s terms. You want to ensure that they completely understand all that you say.
- Focus on the strengths of the student first. Parents want to hear good things about their child. Later, you may feel more comfortable addressing any areas where the student is having difficulty or creating problems. Check out this list of appropriate euphemisms to use to address any negative behaviors the student is having. Remember that it is always wise to focus on a solution to any problem rather than focusing on the problem itself. Discuss the problem. Ask the parents to give suggestions as to how the problem would be best served. You want to work together with the parents in the remediation of any problem.
- Help parents feel free to ask questions. Be prepared for possible questions the parents might ask such as “How is my child doing in school?”, “What are his or her grades?”, “How can I help him or her do better?” “Have you had any problems with his or her behavior? If so, what will you do to solve the problem and how can I help support you in this?”, or “What are your discipline procedures?”
For tips on how to assess growth and competency of your students, check out these resources on student assessment and writing report card comments from the Jumbo Book of Teacher Tips and Timesavers.
Part III: Prior Communication and Preparation
When it comes to conducting smooth parent-teacher conferences, some teachers find it effective to make prior contact before conference time rolls around. At the beginning of the year, before the formal conference time, consider calling the parents. Get off to a good start with your students’ parents. Call and introduce yourself as their child’s teacher. Tell about things that are happening and will be happening in the classroom. Find something good to say about their child. You will not only aid in fostering a positive relationship with the parents, but it will make it easier to work with them during conference time. Too often, teachers do not make an initial contact prior to meeting them for the first time at parent conference time. Prior contact pays off dividends in the long run.
If personally contacting the parents is not a possibility, try giving out a brochure to parents at the beginning of the school year to inform them of your classroom expectations. What should you include in the brochure? Here are several suggestions:
- a list of class rules
- homework requirements
- a time schedule of daily activities
- expectations of times you will be free for telephone calls or conferences
- principal’s name, assistant principal’s name, school telephone number
- Never put your home telephone number in a brochure. You may not want parents (or students) to call at home. Use discretion and only give out the number when you know it will be kept in confidence by the parent.
When the time comes for setting up the formal conference period, ask both parents of each child to come. This affords you the opportunity to meet both parents and helps to clarify questions they might have. Remember, your school year will be more successful if you have the parents backing you and believing in you. Most of the time, you will find parents cooperative and willing to help in any way. However, be prepared. You will have some parents who are hostile. Do your best to make them feel comfortable by listening to whatever they want to say. If you get defensive, you will only complicate the issue. Try to offer ways to correct any problem that may be brought into the conference.
Prior to the Conference
Prepare well for each conference so that you are relaxed, well-informed, and ready for the questions that the parents may pose to you during the conference. Keep a sharp pencil on hand. The following tips will help you to be ready.
- Meet with each child’s other teachers prior to the conference. Jot down any concerns they may have. Highlight those concerns that have appeared in more than one area.
- Go over your student notes prior to conferences.
- Make notes of things you would like to cover at conferences.
- Have ready a folder with samples of the student’s work.
- Keep your parent communications cards, your recordkeeping, and your student information book on hand.
- Have your grade book and grading scale readily available if needed. (Caution: Be sure to be cautious enough not to show other student’s grades. When parents are able to see other students’ grades, you are breaking the rules of confidentiality.)
- Go over each report card prior to each conference.
- Know the questions you want to ask that will help you to work with their child. Think carefully over any questions you have that might be personal. You do not want to probe into personal affairs. Also, be sure to ask and listen to the parents’ opinions. And, by all means, never be judgmental, for your goal is to form a positive and productive working relationship.
- Arrange your conference area where there are no physical barriers that would come between you and the parent. It makes for a more comfortable discussion environment. For example, do not sit behind your desk. You want to meet the parents on an equal basis. It is necessary to make them feel comfortable and at ease.
- Make sure to keep accurate notes of conferences. Bring up the notes from the last conference. (“Last time we talked about Johnny being reluctant to do his homework at home. How has that been going?”)
Remember that preparing well before conferences will give you a good sense of direction as to how you would like the conference to go. Neglecting to organize, plan, and prepare properly may have you stumbling through the conference with unclear goals and unproductive results. Make the conference worthwhile and prepare beforehand.
For tips on what to do during the conference, stay tuned to our next post.
Part II: Arranging Your Room for Parent Conferences
When it comes to arranging your room for conferences, every classroom is different and everyone has his or her own style, so setting up for conferences is clearly a personal matter. Some teachers, moreover, may feel that their everyday classroom is just fine to hold parent-teacher conferences.
Here are a few tips to help make a good impression on parents as well as to create the right atmosphere for holding conferences.
- Leave the chairs off the desks. Have them pushed in, the room neat, and the desks in order.
- Clean the chalkboard or whiteboard. Have information written up on the board for the next day so that you can point out to parents how you display assignments, teach time management, etc.
- Make the conference area relaxing and inviting. You might have a vase of fresh flowers, a small lamp, or a dish of candy at the conference desk.
- Hang a sign on your classroom door with the schedule of conferences so that parents can double-check the conference schedule.
- Have a timer that rings if you have difficulty keeping to the conference schedule. It will remind you that the time has ended and will also notify parents that their time is up.
- Have classroom samples of student work, class books, or artwork for parents to look over while they are waiting to meet with you.
For more tips on how to set up for parent-teacher conferences, check out out the following books and stay tuned for the next post on prior communication and preparation for parent-teacher conferences.