How to Best Prepare for Parent-Teacher Conferences
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I know that parent-teacher conferences can feel really intimidating in your first year of teaching, but they don't have to be something that you dread.
Let's talk about some of the things I’ve learned over the years that can set you up for having some of the best parent teacher conferences possible.
To help break this down, step-by-step, I’ve divided this episode into three sections: things to do before conferences, what to do during conferences, and what to do following conferences.
Although the freebie is no longer available for this episode, you can scoop up my Parent-Teacher Conferences Flip Books and Forms inside my TpT Store by clicking here or on the image below:
All right, let's dive into today's topic.
How to Prepare for Parent-Teacher Conferences
Before the Conferences Start:
- First, I highly recommend that you create a one-page overview of “Report Card Comments” for each child. I’ve included a sample for you in the freebie for this episode so you can see how I set up mine, but yours will likely be different, depending on your report card.
Using this one-page overview, look at each child’s report card and make note of specific things you want to talk about during the interview. Consider two or three areas where you feel this child is excelling or positives you want to share with the parents, and two or three areas that you want to see growth in, and then list these on this one page overview.
Then, pull any evidence, data, or assessments you have to support or illustrate what you want to talk about with their parents, both positive and areas of concern. And don’t limit this to just academic areas, but also personal growth and work habits, too.
- Next, be sure to include any resources that will support parents in helping their child, based on the 2 areas of growth you want their child to work on. This might include a list of tips for how to help their child in reading, in writing, or in math at home, or there may be a book or a website you want them to check out for extra support.
- You might also want to prepare a list of questions that the parent might want to ask.
Sometimes parents have negative connotations with school based on their own experiences growing up, or they might be intimidated by school in general, or they just might not know what to ask. Having a list of questions can help them to think about what they really want to know and to feel empowered to ask the questions they really want to.
- If you use portfolios with your students, be sure to also have your students go through their portfolio a few days before the conference to find evidence of the Stars and Wishes they have already identified with you.
- And finally, all appointments and your name should be clearly marked on the outside of your door. I also post a sign asking parents to knock if it is their scheduled time. This helps me to keep track of time, and I can either wrap up or schedule a second interview for the parent who requests more time.
What Should Teachers Say (and Do) During the Conference?
Okay, so we’ve already talked quite a bit about how to set yourself up for conferences with the Report Card overview and the Three Stars and Two Wishes sheet, but here are some additional things to consider during interviews to ensure that everyone has a positive experience:
- After reviewing the student’s Three Stars and Two Wishes sheet (and supporting documents) together, stay open to hearing the parent first. I know it can feel like you are on a pretty intense time schedule, but parents have waited a long time for their 15 minutes with you, so if they have something that they really want to talk to you about, let them have the floor.
- Although it can be hard, try to avoid rushing in to defend your practice. Do your best to display clarity and confidence in your own philosophy and classroom practice and remain open to suggestions and to working together.
- When you’re discussing behavior problems and educational issues, stick to the facts and support what you are saying with specific incidents and/or work samples.
- Finally, if a parent becomes verbally abusive, stop the conference and arrange to meet at a different date (with administrative support if necessary).
Concluding the Conference: How Do I Make the Most of Parent-Teacher Conferences?
At the end of each conference, be sure to:
- Summarize the important topics of discussion and reflect parents’ statements back to them and do further inquiry if necessary.
- Be sure to establish goals for the next term (no more than 3) and give parents a copy.
- Review the plan of action to be sure everyone (including you), understands and agrees.
- Ask parents if they have any further concerns.
- Add any items to your “Post-Conference To Do List” (also included in the resource I have referenced inside this episode) to remind you of follow-up after the conference, including extra work/support/enrichment to be sent home, student/teacher contracts, phone calls, referrals, etc.
All right, so there you have it! Everything you need to experience well organized and successful parent-teacher conferences. I hope that you have found this information helpful as you prepare for this exciting event. This is going to be fun, remember?
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I hope you have a wonderful week, and remember - just because you're a beginning elementary teacher, there is no need to struggle like one.
Dr. Lori Friesen | Beginning Teacher Mentor
Creator of the R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy, Dr. Lori Friesen has mentored thousands of beginning teachers across the country through her workshops and courses. Host of the popular podcast, Beginning Teacher Talk, and creator of the innovative literacy program for 1st and 2nd grade, Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed, Dr. Lori is dedicated to serving educators and inspiring learners. Learn more at drlorifriesen.com and at howdogshelpkids.com.
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