November is parent/teacher conference month in many school districts across the United States. Conferences give teachers the opportunity to have a face-to-face meeting with parents and discuss student progress from the first quarter of the school year. What should teachers remember as they prepare for conferences? What should parents expect to learn from their conference? I asked several principal colleagues to share their sage advice.
What is your best piece of advice for teachers as they prepare for conferences?
Try to hear your message through the ears and hearts of the parents. Parents send us their very best and whatever you are saying about their child you are saying about them, too. Be honest, be respectful, be kind. – Pat Keffer @psikeffer
Start with one positive, even if it seems like a stretch. Listen to their concerns, but keep them on track. – Donna Usewick @dsusewick
Always start with a positive and don’t overwhelm parents with constructive feedback. Pick a few things the student needs to work on (the big rocks) and focus on those items. Also, try to be specific about what they can do to positively influence the change needed. It is also helpful to provide some information about major curricular shifts within the Maryland College and Career Ready standards. – Jason Otte @fishingfan24
I encourage teachers to have a written plan for what they want to share and be consistent with all parents – share something positive (a snapshot of their child during the school day), areas of concern, how the parent can provide support at home, and offer an opportunity for questions. Student work should also be available for the parent to review. Above all, it is important for the teacher to be positive and engage the parents as partners in their child’s education. – Sue Myers @SueMyers1984
Come prepared—jot down notes before the conference about the child that include positives and opportunities for growth. While we want to celebrate all students’ successes and special traits, we want to encourage growth in all students. Providing parents with specific strategies and areas to focus on supports student learning and pulls parents into the magic of learning. – Rachel Amstutz @rachelamstutz
Be prepared. Make sure you know the student themselves, not just the work they do. Rehearse what you are going to share about school wide initiatives. -Amanda Salveron @APACSalveron
What should parents expect to learn from their conference with the teacher?
Parents should understand the strengths of their child as well as the areas of need…academically and socially, and specifically how the parents can help and support. This would require an understanding of the expectations that the teacher has for the child and class, again, academically and socially. – Pat Keffer @psikeffer
Parents should have a good overall picture of progress. Teachers need to make sure that parents know that this is 10 or 15 minute conversation and that constant communication is the key. – Donna Usewick @dsusewick
It would be my hope that parents would walk away feeling positive, with a better understanding of what specifically their child needs to work on, as well as some information about major educational shifts that could impact their child. – Jason Otte @fishingfan24
Parents should expect to learn their child’s current skill level in all academic areas as well as specific strengths and next steps. Expect to leave with strategies to begin using immediately at home to help move your child to the next level! –Rachel Amstutz @rachelamstutz
Parents should learn about what the teacher is doing to meet the needs of their individual student. They should also learn how they can be supportive of their student at home. – Amanda Salveron @APACSalveron
Conferences can be a stressful event for parents. Here are some final tips to help reduce anxiety as parents prepare for their conference: