Wednesday, October 12, 2011

parent-teacher conferences

You've been a teacher for a couple months now and just as you're settling into the routine, you're faced with parent-teacher conferences. I remember being terrified the first time through, dreading the unknown of how the conferences might go. Turns out, I really enjoyed parent-teacher conferences. It allowed me a glimpse into how my students functioned within their family, and I always came away with a little more insight into how to reach the student. Parent-teacher conferences are exhausting, don't get me wrong. And honestly, some did not go well. But the conferences do provide an important link between home and school.

Teacher Gail Tillery writes in Education Week, "Your students' parents are not your enemies. Ultimately, they want the same thing you want, which is the best for their children. By maintaining respectful and productive communication, you can work together to help students succeed." Though she writes about how even after 26 years of teaching, she still gets a little worry in her belly when she sees an email or voicemail from a parent or as parent-teacher conferences approach (ah, I know the feeling well!), she knows that is the key to fully supporting students' education.

For teachers working with ELL students in the classroom (which, really, is almost all of us these days), parent communication and conferences can be an additional source of concern. In some cases, you may need to make sure to work with your school in order to have a fully bilingual interpreter available for the scheduled conference time with a family so that you can communicate with parents in their preferred language. It is best not to rely on students to interpret for the conference, as this can disempower the parent and put the student in an uncomfortable position.

Education Minnesota (are you going to the professional conference next week?) has some helpful advice for successful conferences for new teachers. The Harvard Family Research Project has some great tips available here. I also found some helpful parent-teacher conferences dos and don'ts at the NY teachers' association website.

Bottom line, don't be too freaked out. Remember, you're all there for the well-being of the student. Be welcoming when parents come into your classroom, be prepared with things to say about your students, listen actively, and go in with the attitude that this is an opportunity. Have as much fun as you can, and plan to collapse in bed at the end of the night!

1 comment: