Monday, February 24, 2014

spring parent-teacher conferences

You're midway through the year and probably getting ready for the second round of parent-teacher conferences for the year. By now, you know your students well and have seen them grow as people and learners. There's still a lot of school year left, and you want to make the most of the precious few minutes you have with the families of your students.

Ahead of time, plan your main purpose/agenda for the conferences. Once this is set in your planning, prepare a note to go home for parents sharing the purpose and, of course, the dates/times. It will help have a smooth conference if there is a specific purpose in mind. I found it helpful to have a checklist of topics that I would cover in the conference that would help me and the parents stay on track. Those few minutes go by quickly! The checklist could include general impressions, progress in the academic area(s) of your class(es), assessment data, upcoming projects/assessments, strengths and areas of growth, goals for the students, and/or strategies that parents can support at home.

Preparation is critical here to help ensure that you communicate what you need to in order to help the students' progress in school. Make sure as you prepare your notes that you focus on things that can be changed, have a stance of learning from parents and working together for the good of the students, that you limit the concerns to a manageable number that can be addressed, and avoid edu-jargon when possible.

You can help make the conference go even more smoothly by preparing the parents. Have them come with some strengths and needs that they see at home. Ask them to write down their questions ahead of time, so they don't forget to ask something important.

In terms of the setting, try to have adult-sized chairs available, and avoid sitting at your desk if at all possible. Finding a more neutral spot in your room will help put parents at ease. Having some paper and pens available for parents to take notes is a great idea. I always had chocolate too.
When preparing for those conferences you might be nervous about because of student concerns in academics or behaviors, it helps to gather documentation about the concerns. This might include talking with other teachers. You will want to also think about action plans for these students, but start by inviting ideas from parents. And always start with a positive. This can set the conference off to a good start. There are more tips for preparing for conferences with parents who might be upset about something related to their child's school experience here. Learn as much as you can from parents about what has helped in the past.

At the end of the conference, settle on an action plan on which both the teacher and parents (and, if possible, student) can agree. You'll feel more prepared for the rest of the year with your students, and parents will know what they can do to support their student at home. Keeping the student at the center of the conference is key!


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