While parent teacher conferences can be a nerve-wracking affair for everyone involved, they are also an opportune time for teachers to increase their communication with the families of their students. With about 30 students to a classroom, it is hard to prepare fully for every single conference, especially when there is only about 30 minutes to meet with each family. Make conferences less stressful by going into your first one of the year with the goal of setting up a communication and action plan with families. Creating a strategic and continuous plan for how you and your student’s families will check in throughout the year will prevent the parent-teacher conference from being a tension filled event where both parties are trying to share too much information in too little time.
Here are some tips to not only make the most of the time that you have with families during the conference, but to also increase the likelihood of you both being able to work successfully together throughout the year to achieve the very best for your students.
- Come prepared to talk specifically about their child’s strengths and needs in the classroom. It is always a good idea to have student work examples to illustrate both a student’s needs and their achievements. Parents will often feel defensive if there is too much focus on their child’s needs, but if that information is tempered with a discussion of their child’s strengths, it is easier to figure out how you can address issues together. Remember to try and keep the discussion to 1 or 2 pertinent needs. Anything more than that can feel overwhelming within the short time constraints of a conference.
- Have some concrete ideas of how families can work on skills at home in order to meet academic goals. For the most part families really want to know not only how you are addressing their child’s needs within the classroom, but also how they can be helping with the effort at home. Be sure to give specific and concrete suggestions for how they might practice classroom learning at home.
- Spend some time discussing how their child is doing socially and ask families how they think their child feels about school. Even beyond academics, families want to know if their child is enjoying being at school and if they are able to both concentrate on what the teacher is doing and also interact with the other children. If a child is having some social issues, ask their family to share their thoughts on what might be going on.
- Take a few minutes toward the end of the conference to discuss how you might follow up with each other throughout the year. Will phone calls or emails work? How often should you be in touch? Having different methods of communicating with families will not only take some of the pressure off of the standard conferences, but it will also help you connect with more families who might not be able to make it out to the school. For families who don’t show up in person, have a plan to follow up with an offer to talk about their child in format that might better suit them whether that is a note home, a phone call, or an online chat.
Solidify the idea that you both are partners in the effort to help their child succeed socially and academically.
The goal of creating a communication and action plan with families is to solidify the idea that you both are partners in the effort to help their child succeed socially and academically. You want to make sure that you come prepared to talk about their child’s specific strengths and needs, but you also want to take the time to ask families for their input on how their child is doing. Families will appreciate being seen as an equal contributor to the conversation and they also can also provide valuable insight into any issues (good or bad) that their child is having. A little preparation for your first meeting this year can pay off for months down the line!