Well...it is that time of year again...you know the time when eager parents want to see how their children are progressing in school. Now..I have over 30 years experience with parent conferences as a teacher not to mention the ones I have attended as a parent and I would be lying if I said," Oh all my conferences were as sweet as sugar...no sour spots here! You just tell the parents how their little cherubs are doing and that's that...WRONG!" Having a great Teacher/Parent conference takes a little more than that, but if you follow a few of these easy sweet steps, which I am sure some of you are already doing or at least thinking about, your conferences will go down in the books as the BEST EVER...well maybe I am exaggerating a little bit...let's just say you won't go home crying your eyes out like I did my first year even though I was told I did a fabulous job with a very difficult parent...the stress was so high before, during and after this conference...at least it was my last one for the night....that I got home, ran upstairs and literally cried my eyes out and then picked myself up, wiped my tears and started all over the next day. That's the teacher spirit! (I may have to write a blog abut my most memorable conferences sometime soon...30 years encourages many, many interesting conference stories to say the least!)
So here are a few tips that can be easily incorporated into your already fabulous conference ideas:
1. Be Prepared and remember parents are onlyconcerned about their child. You may have
15-30 or more students in your class, but the only child who is the most important to them is THEIR child. So make sure you take a few minutes to jot down some positives and some areas with which the child needs to work. You can certainly make up your own frame, but here is one I have used to help me have some notes on hand to glance at as needed. Have all data ready to go to show baselines, progress, reading levels and whatever else is important to you as a teacher and your district guidelines. I also send a reflection sheet home prior to conferences so parents can jot down what they may want to chat about. They return it to school and then you can use this as a guide and be proactive during your conference.
PS. Have as conference schedule hanging outside your door, chairs for waiting, class books to browse as parents wait, lots of KID work displayed outside your classroom. Inside the classroom, have a BIG bowl of candy, some Sticky Notes for you and anyone else who might need to take notes, a duplicate schedule with phone numbers and times as well as a file with everything in conference order.
3. Start the conference on a positive note. A compliment about their child, a cute story jotted down the other day in your notes as it was happening....anything you can think of....."Mia was so helpful the other day when Julia fell on the playground......."
work is in school and what they think they might need to do better, they are right on and funny to boot. I have the students use kid writing and then edit on a sticky as needed so we can read them together...we always have a blast with this!
5. Have a portfolio of student work ready to show as you are going through strengths and weaknesses so parents can see first hand and understand what you mean. I always had these ready to share right under the self-evaluation sheet so I was able to pull them out and then "show and tell" starting with the strengths so when you get to some "areas of concern," the parents know you are positive, like their child and are working to support and help them. I will never forget a conference I attended as a support for a parent and when I asked, "Can you tell us something positive about Lilly...we know she is social and has a great imagination, but what about her academic strengths?" and the teacher replied...and I kid you not..."What do you mean?" So, then I began to chat about the positives and strengths I noticed in her work...." I wasn't even the teacher...I was along for the ride. You can imagine the conversation in the car on the way home...this goes back to the old Girl Scout Rule: BE PREPARED!
6. Think of positive ways to say something that might be a bit negative...this does not mean to SUGAR COAT!! You need to be honest with parents. They deserve the truth about their child even if the truth is difficult to express. Just think of a positive way to say it! For example: Instead of saying Johnny is running all over the classroom, interrupting his classmates and will not stop. He is always in motion...you might say: Johnny enjoys movement in and around the classroom. He loves to visit and chat with his classmates. We are working with Johnny to understand when is the best time or appropriate time in our schedule to socialize with his classmates. You are basically saying the same thing, but in a more positive way.
7. Ask what the parents are seeing at home so you can understand their situation a bit more. Sometimes parents will share something that is going on at home that may explain some of the actions or behaviors you are seeing at school. Parents are busy, too and sometimes their own personal lives are filled with ups and downs that they may have simply forgot to mention! I am sure that if you see behaviors that are unusual from a child, you will call the parent, but perhaps this just started to surface a day ago and your antennae are posed and ready to zoom in. You can learn so much from giving a listening ear to a parent or guardian.
8. Send parents home with a list or checklist of what they can do to support their child at home. You can have a generic form or a checklist where you simply think of each child and check off what parents might need to do at home to support their child.
End on a positive
note: "I am so glad that we were able to chat about Johnny's progress today! I am thrilled he is in my class this year! He makes me smile everyday! Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns OR I will contact you in a few days to let you know the results of ...OR to share how things are going..." SMILE, SMILE, SMILE...NEXT PLEASE! Here's to some SWEET, Fabulous Parent Conferences...Let's Go!!!
A Free Sample of Some of the Conference Sheets mentioned above. ENJOY!
A complete parent teacher communication resource for your convenience with forms that you can use all year long.