When it comes to parent-teacher conferences, the key focus should be what is in the best interest of the student. Preparation is vital for the conference to be successful, and whether you are a new teacher, or not, I hope you will gain some useful tips to help guide you in your next parent-teacher conference.
Communicate with Parents Before it is Necessary to have a Conference
If you notice your student is struggling, the first step is to communicate with their parent(s) by sending a note or making a phone call. Oftentimes, parents are less likely to become upset if they have been notified about your concern(s) prior to you calling and scheduling a conference. However, does this mean you should make a phone call or send a note home the first time you notice a student off-task or misbehaving? Absolutely not!
Documentation is Important
If a student is having trouble academically, be sure to keep samples of their classwork, homework, and tests. At my school, we did not send home our weekly reading tests because a few years ago we had parents making copies of the tests for their younger children. I know…completely senseless! However, it was important for their children to be on the honor roll, and they were willing to make it happen whatever the cost. So, if your school does not allow you to send home their tests, invite them to come to your school and see their child’s tests. This will provide parents an opportunity to see what types of questions their child needs help with and how they could better study with them.
The same goes for a student having trouble behaviorally. Document any infractions that habitually occur. When other teachers experience the same behaviors in their class (P.E., music, art, etc.), document those details and keep them on hand. Also, if you receive reports of misbehavior from the bus driver, keep records of the date and details about the incident. (The good thing about buses is many of them now have cameras installed, and there is no denying the behavior on a bus!)
If you feel like your concerns are going to lead to a scheduled conference, be sure to share your documentation with your principal and assistant principal. In the event the parent becomes upset and contacts an administrator, at least they are informed and not blindsided by the call.
Offer a Warm Welcome
Always start the conference off with a positive remark about the student…even if you have to dig really deep to find one! When the parents can sense your care and concern for their child, they are most likely going to support and trust your recommendations. The parent(s) should sense your number one goal for their child is to be successful in your classroom. If you are struggling with finding something positive to say, perhaps mention his/her athletic talent, drawing skills, problem-solving ability, singing voice, computer skills, etc.
Preparation is the Key
I started using the following forms to help as a checklist and to help guide me during my parent-teacher conferences.
This form was so helpful during my conferences when oftentimes I might be at a loss of words to come up with something positive to say. (If you are still at a loss, refer to the suggestions listed above.) Unfortunately, in my second grade classroom I had those kids too. I recommend only selecting 3-5 choices for one conference in the “Areas in Need of Improvement” section, and likewise in the “General Strengths” area. Let’s face it, if more than five attributes were checked in the General Strengths section, there probably wouldn’t be a need for the conference.
End on a Positive Note
After sharing your concerns with the parent(s), I complete the following form and make a copy for the parent to keep as well. There signature on the form indicates they fully support your teacher recommendation(s).
Be sure to thank the parent(s) for taking the time to meet with you, and reinforce your target goal is for their child to be successful in your classroom. Schedule a follow up conference if necessary.
Invite Other Faculty, Staff, or Administrators to Attend
If possible, having another staff member present can be beneficial especially if you suspect the conference could get heated. Sometimes just having another educator present can have a calming effect during the meeting. If you suspect the conference could spiral out of hand, request one of your administrators to sit in on the conference.
Be Prepared for Angry Parents
At some point in your teaching career, you will have to deal with an irate parent. Remember…communication is the key to avoiding angry parents. Keep them informed along the journey. It is not unusual for angry parents to blame you for their child’s academic struggle or undesirable behavior. Although you may be thinking it, remember not to let your face share what you may be REALLY thinking.
I will be having a Parent Teacher Conference Part 2 blog post coming soon! Please leave a comment if you have would like to share any of your favorite Parent Teacher Conference Tips!
Also, if you would like to see what other teachers have to say about my Parent Teacher Conference forms, click HERE for more details!