Getting the Most Out of Your Parent Teacher Conferences

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Never led a parent conference?  Led a conference but want to get more out of it?  

Here are some surefire ways to improve your parent conference experience.

Prepare in Advance

Think about the individual student before the parents arrive and what concerns might arise.  Have the student’s work ready to show to track the student’s progress.  What are examples of successes that you can share with the parents?  The more specifically you can speak about the child’s performance the more the parent can see that you are invested.  What are areas that need to be targeted for the student’s growth, or where do they struggle?  Speak about any challenges accurately, and then talk about the steps that you have been and will implement to help the student achieve success.  

Set Achievable Goals and Make an Action Plan

Where are the areas that the student needs to grow?  Are they academic?  Social?  Emotional?  Target the areas that need development and then come up with a measurable goals along with the parents.  Then make an action plan.  What needs to be done now, next week, in a month?  How can you support the child with the goals in school, and how can the parents support the goals at home?  Decide a timeframe to check-in to monitor progress.

Involve the Parents As Opportunity Makers

What can the parents do to support their child’s learning and passion in the home and after school?  Whether it’s holding the child accountable for their homework, setting up a quiet, distraction free study space, or finding enrichment opportunities for their child, there is much that a parent can do.  Regardless of a parent’s level of resources or level of education, they can find ways to make opportunities for their child.  Having this conversation will benefit the child and improve their performance in your class.

Invite the Student to Attend

Although some topics require only the parents and teacher to meet (for instance in cases of trauma), most of the time, it is wonderful to invite the student to attend the conference.  They can explain their progress and challenges, set goals, and ask for the help they need in a safe setting.  Having them present also indicates to the student that they are the person ultimately accountable for their learning, and increases their investment.

Keep It Positive

It’s not just what you say, but how you say it.  Listen carefully and take notes that you email to the parent after the conference.  Be enthusiastic when describing successes and factual when describing areas of struggle.  Always be kind and respectful of the student.  And remember that body language is important, so sit facing the parents with open posture and arms. If a parent does get defensive, be sure to defuse the situation by say, “Let’s take a step back and get on the same page about how to help your child.”

Happy conferences!  Any other tips?  Share in the comments.

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