Are you anxiously preparing for a parent-teacher conference? Parent-teacher conferences are an exciting time to form partnerships with the caregivers of your students. It’s also stressful. You’ve got to gather all the information and data and present it to their families in a delicate manner.
Here are some tips for having a positive parent-teacher conference with your student’s families.
Tip #1 Sit at a table
There’s a suggestive significance about where you’ll sit during this conference. Instead, use a round table to conduct the meeting. You can even push two desks together if you don’t have a round table.
If you sit at a desk, you put distance between you and the child’s caregivers.
Sitting next to them makes the meeting more personable and creates a sense that you are approachable. It also builds trust and helps you establish a partnership as you are working alongside the family. This is a simple strategy for building a partnership during your parent-teacher conference.
Tip #2 Create a Waiting Area
You’ll find that some families arrive early. It’s essential to set up a space for them outside so you can maintain confidentiality with the conference in session. Create a waiting area by placing a few chairs outside, a welcome table, and hang student work on a bulletin board.
I like to use these templates so that parents and guardians can write to the student. They give these to me before they leave so I can place them on their desks. My students love these little surprises, and I think my families enjoyed having a task to occupy their time.
Tip #3 Check Your Parent Teacher Conference Schedule
I like using Sign Up Genius to create schedules for my conferences. It’s easy to use because it prints the times for me. Remember, you’ll have some families who just show up. It’s okay. Try to work them into your schedule, but if you can’t because of a full schedule, set up another date and time to conference or try a video conference with them at a different time.
If you’re like me, then handwriting your schedule is helpful. I use this sheet to write down my schedule and organize my files based on which families are coming in. Doing this keeps me organized and prepared for the next meeting.
Tip #4 Create a Goal for Each Conference
Parents want to know how their child is doing, but most importantly, they want to know how to help. Start your conference by addressing the data points and explaining what each one means. Then, propose a goal for that child to improve or maintain growth. Goals could be as simple as completing homework, reading nightly, x minutes practicing math facts, behavior charts, etc.
Tip #5 Ask Parents and Guardians About Their Concerns
Before each conference, I send home a questionnaire to the families of my students. These questions are insightful! I ask the parents their concerns, what they hope to cover during our meeting, and how they expect me to help.
The responses I get help me feel confident about what we will discuss because I’ve had time to plan for answering these. I think it helps parents and guardians feel that the conference was successful since we discussed everything mentioned.
Tip #6 Provide Updated Data at the Parent Teacher Conference
Be sure that the data you provide is updated and accurate. It’s pointless to have a meeting about a test score that was low three weeks ago. When sharing data, have examples and portfolios ready to share. These help clarify the meaning of each data point.
When preparing the materials, use a sticky note to jot examples or ask questions that you need clarification from the student or family. Doing so will keep you focused and highlight your main points.
Tip #7 No Teacher Talk
We use tons of acronyms in education. For example, Maria’s SLP works with her IEP and 504. She’s working on pronouncing the /sh/ words from the HFW and PSI lists.
People who are not in education will not understand this jargon, so speak to your students’ families using whole words. Do not assume they know any acronyms, and go slow!
You may want to provide a pencil and paper so they can take notes. Also, ask if they have any questions before moving on.
Tip #8 Provide Extra Copies for Parents and Guardians
Conferences can be overwhelming for parents and guardians, especially if their child is struggling. It’s normal for their brains to shut off, especially when learning about deficits and missed milestones for the first time.
It’s essential to provide extra copies of everything discussed to the parents and guardians. Be sure to avoid acronyms and give examples with the additional documents. Doing so will help the parents understand as they reflect at a later time.
Tip #9 Be Positive
Start the conference by welcoming the child and their family. Smile and thank them for coming to the meeting. Once you’re seated, start by giving positive comments about the student’s strengths. You can even share how you’ve bonded with the child over the past few weeks. Doing this will help the parent understand that you like their child and you see value in them.
I like to thank my parents for coming to the conference by giving them a small gift. It’s nothing expensive and an excellent way to say thank you for your time. These are nice for them to sip on during our meeting. I have several different templates available so that we use other gifts for each conference.
Tip #10 Remain Professional During the Parent Teacher Conference
Rarely, a parent will become upset or defensive. If you’re uncomfortable in a situation, excuse yourself and contact your administrator immediately. It’s not fun, but calmly remind them that you must work together for the child’s benefit.
Finally, you must never forget that each student has a right to confidentiality. Do not share information about other students during the conference.
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If you’re doing conferences virtually this year, you’ve got to check out my tips for making it a successful Virtual Parent-Teacher Conference.