So everyone knows that Parent Teacher conferences are tough. It is a long day full of not so easy conversations and when the day is over, you still have to teach the next day!
So I feel like I have put together a list of 5 helpful hints so that conferences go as easily and smoothly as possible!
1. Don't overbook yourself! Schedule time for lunch/dinner. If you are hungry, all you will be thinking about is eating and it will be difficult to pay attention to your conference. It will not kill you to have one conference the day before or the day after. Eat and stay hydrated!
2. Plan it out! I am a talker. Correction: I am a MAJOR talker. I love my students and I love talking to my parents about how much I love their children. But your 15 minute parent teacher conference is not the time to do it!
From what I have seen in the different schools I have taught in, most conferences are 15 minutes long. I have found the best way to set conferences up are as follows:
- 2 minutes: Rave about the child as a person (funny, quirky, serious, smart, energetic, etc.). Tell the parent what you like about their child non-school wise. It is important for parents to know that you like their child and enjoy teaching them!
- 3 minutes: Discuss the child's strengths. Every child has a strength. It could be their reading, writing, math, science, or social studies. But it could also be their ability to be a good friend, their behavior, their stamina, their focus, etc. All students are leaders in something and it is important for the parents to know that.
- 3 minutes: Discuss what the child can improve. Now that the parents know that you love their child and that their child has many things that they are good at, they are ready to hear what their child can work on.
- NEVER compare their child to their classmates. If you need a parent to understand why they are behind, compare it to an average "____" grader.
- Let parents know that every child has room for improvement, even identified "gifted" students. No one is every done learning or growing, so parents should not think of improvements as a bad thing.
- 3 minutes: Discuss what the you will do at school to help the child improve. Now that you have identified the improvements you would like to see, you need to tell the parents what you will be doing to help them. Even though many teachers are already doing all of these things listed below, it is important for parents to hear how much you are doing for their child to help them succeed. If they know how much you are doing at school to help, they are more likely to help at home. You could discuss doings things like:
- Individual conferring
- Small group work focused on __________
- Goal setting
- Differentiated work
- Challenge work
- Behavior plan
- Out of class tutoring/assistance (reading specialist, math specialist, speech, etc.)
- 2 minutes: Discuss what the parents can do at home to help the child improve. It is important for the parents to know their role in helping their child succeed. Many times parents do not realize how easy it is to help their child at home. I ALWAYS say reading with your child, for every child, every single time. It doesn't matter if they are a grade level ahead or behind, they need to be reading at home. Otherwise, I suggest things like:
- Having book discussions
- Making a daily calendar with times/clocks
- Writing stories
- Playing card games (greater/less than, addition, subtraction, etc.)
- Counting money (Buying the foods for breakfast/lunch/dinner, counting allowance, mystery money, etc.)
- Reading the newspaper/magazines
- Watching the news
- 2 minutes: Discuss any questions they may have. Obviously parents are going to have questions in the beginning/middle/end when we are talking, but I try to save this time at the end to specifically focus on what they would like to know.
I have created a Parent/Teacher Conference Notes form that I fill out before the conference, that has my notes for each child. This is something that I refer to throughout the conference and give the parents a copy of when they leave. We both sign it and agree to do what we said we would do to help the child.
Parents really appreciate this because many times, both parents cannot be present and it gives them something to remember everything that was discussed. It is also an added bonus that you have documentation of what you discussed so parents cannot say "they had no idea their child was so behind...."
You can get your copy of Parent Teacher Conference notes here!
3. Stay on topic! It is YOUR job to keep the parents on topic. If you have a list of things you would like to discuss with them, don't spend the entire time on one thing. You can always meet again, talk on the phone, e-mail, etc.
4. Plan for special circumstances. If you know that you have a "special" behavior problem or know that you have a discussion that is going to take longer than 15 minutes, schedule it for a different day/time. Nothing is worse that rushing through an important conference or running overtime for all your other conferences!
5. Get organized! If you have assignments, assessments, paperwork, etc. for your parents, organize it all beforehand. I have a little crate that I put file folders in for each of my students. I keep them all in my file cabinet most of the time, so it's easy to just move the file right into the crate so they're accesible for the conference. I put them in the order of my conferences and put the paperwork in the order in which I will be talking about it during the conference. It it what allows me to stay on my 15 minute schedule!
Hopefully these 5 steps will help your conferences run a little but smoother!
Good luck with your conferences!