As I write this, it is currently parent-teacher conference season. We've been in school for a couple of months, and finally it's time to meet with parents. Even though the day always feels like I've ran a marathon when it's over, it truly is enjoyable to sit down and talk with parents. In preparation for our fall conferences, I began to think about what goes into a good parent-teacher conference. I will discuss those points in this post.
1. Start With Positives
I think we hear this a lot, but I'm not sure we always adhere to it. Start with the positives. If you are starting with data, then at least don't start with the negatives. Beginning with the negatives will start your conference on a negative tone. That's not good for you or the parent. It can put up an invisible wall between you and the parent. Remember, we are stronger when we work together. We don't want to push parents away, and starting out negatively can do that. Every child is a person and has something wonderful about him or her. Draw on those positives and share it with the parents. This will help make it easier to flow into any areas of concerns and/or improvements later in the conference.
2. Remember Each Student is Someone's Precious Child
Sometimes behavior and other concerns become so large that, that's all we see. However, it's important that we keep the whole child in mind. Just as there are many factors that make up who we are as individuals, the same is true of our students. While we may hyper focus on certain aspects of our students, it's important to remember their organic, whole self. Each student is someone's precious child. This is to be honored and respected. Not only should this be kept in mind during conferences, but on a daily basis as well.
3. Have a Specific Format
If your conferences are going to flow smoothly, it's helpful to have a specific format that you follow. For example, I start my conferences with data from a phonemic awareness assessment and reading, highlighting what the child knows and can do well. Then I discuss areas of growth (as well as provide suggestions of practice, etc.). Following that, I discuss the student's writing. I show examples and draw on what the child is doing well, and, once again, then discuss goals and areas of growth. Next, I discuss math and, as the pattern goes, what he or she is doing well, followed by areas of growth. Last, I discuss the social and emotional aspects of the student. Having a solid format helps guide my conferences. This is especially helpful if I find myself sidetracked by questions or concerns by the parent. I can easily answer specific questions, and then go back to my format. It helps keep me centered.
4. Don't Be Afraid to Ask Questions
You want to make sure to ask parents if they have any questions for you once you have finished. This lets them know that you have finished your part, but also that it's okay for them to ask anything they've been wondering about. Aside from this, however, it's important for you to ask parents questions you may have about your student. Sometimes I see a behavior in class and wonder if the same behavior is seen at home. This can be helpful and insightful, especially if I am looking for ways to work with this behavior. Asking questions can help you gather important information about your student, so don't be afraid to ask.
5. Sleep and Eat
The last important tip (and perhaps the most obvious but least followed) I have is to get a good night's sleep followed by a good breakfast in the morning. I always refer to parent-teacher conferences as a marathon day (we conduct ours during the school day, so students have the day off while we meet with parents) because it is nonstop and leaves me exhausted. There's probably no way around the nonstop aspect of it, but this is exactly why you need to start off strong. Getting a good night's sleep will allow you to enter the conferences energized and well rested. Having a healthy breakfast will provide you with fuel to maintain that energy. These two things seem small, but their impact is huge!
I hope these tips help you have amazing parent-teacher conferences. If they do, won't you leave me a comment and let me? I'd appreciate it!