Parent Teacher Conferences are right around the corner. We have some great tips that will help you have your most successful conferences ever.
Probably the most important chance to make an impression on families is at parent/teacher conferences. So, what is the best way to prepare for conferences?
First, begin your preparations weeks to months before conferences are to be held. Begin by collecting work samples that your students have been doing in class. These pieces can be part of a portfolio that you can use to show families how their children are doing in different subjects.
Second, make sure that line of communication with parents has been open since the beginning of the year. If there are issues with a student, it is better to address them right away, then to wait a week, or even a month, to share the problem at conferences. Families will appreciate being kept up to date with what his happening with their children.
Third, make sure you have goals in mind for each child before conferences. As a grade level team it would be beneficial to sit down and discuss what goals there are for students to be successful and to move onto the next grade level. Families will want to know what they can do at home to help their child meet those goals.
Finally, the last part of preparation for conferences is to look at the child’s cumulative file, get to know his/her past history, and also familiarize yourself with the names of the child’s caretakers. Being knowledgeable about each child is extremely important, and will show families that you truly care about helping their child succeed.
No matter what grade you teach, students can play a part in their own conferences. When we were kids, our parents would leave for conferences, and we would be left at home worried what our teachers would say about us. Now, we were both good kids, so there was really nothing to worry about. But there was still that pit in our stomachs not knowing what was going on at our own conferences. We dreaded the moments our parents would enter the door after being at school. But it doesn’t have to be this way with your students!
At the intermediate level (grades 3-5), students can take ownership by leading most of the conference for their families. It is simple and easy to do. Like most teachers, you are gathering work samples to share as part of a portfolio at conferences. You are also probably having the students write goals for the next part of the school year. These are two activities that students can lead during the conference. Empower them and give them the ability to talk about the work they have done, and what goals they have set for the rest of the school year. The students will be the center of attention. Novel idea, right?
In our conference bundle we have included some sample goal setting forms that you could use/edit with your students.
Conferences are a great way to connect with families face to face. I am sure that report cards go home at least three times per year. But the most beneficial time you have to make a connection with families is at conferences. When you have the families for that face to face time, you can look them in the eye and have meaningful conversations about their children. Take the time to establish a relationship with the families and find out more of what they see in their children. Let them talk. Oftentimes teachers want to dominate the conference by sharing tons of work samples and leave very little time for families to share their thoughts. Take the time to listen. They will appreciate it too.
In our conference bundle there is a letter with questions that you may choose to send home to families about how they perceive their child is doing in school. It is always a great idea to see if you and the families are on the same page in regard to strengths, weaknesses and needs.
How to Deal with Difficult Families
You have to remember that there are some families that did not have good educational experience as children or are not happy with the educational system in general. Oftentimes, these are the families that blame school for the problems their children are having now. As a teacher, it is your job to make sure the connections between student, teacher, and family are focused on helping the student succeed. Empathize with the families and listen to their feelings. Do not shut them out for their beliefs. Try to understand their perspectives. Even if there are disagreements, you must come to the agreement by the end of the conference that you are there for their child, and will do your best to help their child succeed- Period.
If a conference is not going well from the start, and a parent/guardian is yelling at you, you have the right to say politely, “I would like to end the conference now, and schedule it a different time when we can be more productive and focus on the needs of your child.” Keep the spotlight on the child and do not fall prey to arguing or yelling with the parent/guardian. Keep a level head, and ask them to come back at a time when you both can sit down together and discuss ways to help the child succeed.
If you know a conference will be difficult ahead of time, you can always ask for the guidance counselor or principal to sit in during the conference as well.
Make sure to check out all of our conference resources that we have for purchase on TPT in one big discounted bundle! There are over 20 documents that will prepare you for conferences. You can find it by clicking here or on the image below.