Despite knowing the benefits of Parent-Teacher Conferences, I used to get nervous about them. I’d ask myself all sorts of questions. Would I know the answers to questions? Would they expect a solution to a problem I was unaware of? Would they complain that homework took too long or that their child isn’t challenged enough? Would I react appropriately? The questions went on and on.
After years of worrying about conferences, this year was different. I was less worried than I’d ever been before. I finally broke out bright-colored clothes instead of wearing my go-to dark tops to hide sweat stains. Much of that is due to having great students and families, but a lot of it is also due to learning how to navigate conferences with more confidence in my role and less concern for what might go wrong.
Below you will find a few specific practices that have helped me grow more confident with parent-teacher conferences, so I hope they will help you too.
- Schedule Mindfully
- Use an online sign-up that gives automatic reminders.
- Limit conferences to 15-20 minutes.
- Schedule breaks for yourself.
- Decide if you’ll have Parent-Teacher conferences or Student-Led conferences.
- Prepare materials like student reflections and goals, the report card, test results, and examples of work and behaviors.
- Create a takeaway for parents.
- Notify your administrator of challenging conferences.
- Practice with a fellow teacher to build confidence.
- Pack snacks for yourself.
- Set the Scene
- Have students clean their desks and display their work.
- Put comfortable chairs at your conference table.
- Put a sign on the door instructing parents to “Please knock at your scheduled conference time.”
- Post your conference sessions for parents to see.
- Welcome the parents and remind yourself that you have a shared goal of supporting their child.
- Pray. Write it out if you’re nervous about it.
- Praise the child and discuss behaviors, grades, and goals. Use “I notice” statements especially when discussing challenges. Use your prepared materials as references.
- Give parents the platform to ask questions.
- Take notes if you need to follow up with families or students. These notes can be as simple as using a Post-it note, or it can be as formal as writing it on a conference form and having parents sign it.
- End the conference on time. If more time is needed, schedule another meeting.
- If you have follow-up information to share, send it soon after the conferences are over.
I pray your conferences with parents are beneficial for everyone involved. Both you and the parents can gain a better understanding of the beloved child of God who has been placed in your classroom. Together you’ll be able to set achievable goals for the students and work to help the students reach those goals.