Conducting Parent-Teacher Conferences in Today’s Fast Paced Society
It seems that just yesterday excited children were entering the classroom with new school supplies. It is hard to believe that it is now December and the same students are moseying in at the last minute in need of a pencil with lead. Many teachers, especially in their first years of teaching, experience feelings of anxiety while getting ready for parent-teacher conferences. It can be difficult to condense several months’ worth of behaviour and academic progress into a short 15 to 20 minute presentation without fearing that you are leaving something important out. However, there are ways to prepare for a conference that will leave you confident that you are completely prepared. Breaking down the conference into smaller components can help tremendously and significantly decreases the uneasiness you feel while preparing for upcoming conferences.
MONTHS, WEEKS, AND DAYS PRIOR TO YOUR SCHEDULED CONFERENCES
Proper planning is the absolute key to a successful conference and cannot be stressed enough! Organizational skills are absolutely critical for the conference to take place without any complications. Many teachers find that preparing an individual folder for each student at the beginning of the school year is the ideal way to start conference preparation months in advance. From the first day of school you can add examples of the student’s work, behavioural charts, grades, notes, and more into the folder. It is much easier to track a student’s progress this way. It is also easily accessible and will contain almost every bit of information you will need to prepare for the conference. It also provides tangible evidence of any information that you need to provide to the parents.
If it is at all possible try to schedule your conferences with a brief period in between to recoup and go over your notes for the next conference. It is a good idea to divide your conference folders by class and alphabetize them so that you can easily grab the correct student’s folder if you do not have a short period between conferences. This gives you the ability to quickly grab the correct folder while welcoming the next set of parents to your classroom.
CONDUCTING THE CONFERENCE
Have a specific location in your classroom set up ahead of time so that parents are aware of where they are expected to sit and there is no confusion. There are teachers that opt to sit directly beside the parents at a table if one is available in the classroom. This tends to make parents feel more invited than if you were to sit across from them at your desk while they attempted to squeeze into a student’s desk. This also gives parents the impression that you are partners in their child’s education working toward a common goal. .
Have your notes jotted down regarding what exactly you would like to discuss. This will keep the conference focused, make certain you do not forget something important, and make the best of the short period of time you have with the parents. It is easy to get sidetracked during conferences and this is a great way to keep you on track.
CONFERENCES ARE OVER!
There is a feeling of calmness that usually comes at the end of the night when you have ushered the last set of parents out of your classroom and smiled your last biggest and brightest teacher smile. Conferences are done! But are they? Many teachers find that taking a quick 5 minutes to send out a mass thank you email to the parents that attended is a great follow-up. This gives you the opportunity to thank them for taking time out of their schedule to visit with you and reiterates that you look forward to working with them during the year. This can be easily done in one note is distributed via email to all parents and does not have to be personalized.
There will be times when parents are unable to come into the classroom to complete a parent-teacher conference. Make sure that you reach out to these parents as well. As a teacher, it is important to give parents every opportunity to be involved in their child’s education. Telephone conferences are a common way to conduct a parent- teacher conference for parents unable to physically come to the school. If that is not even possible, make certain to mail out information to the parents regarding their child. Be certain that you document every attempted contact with parents for future reference if needed.
INVOLVING STUDENTS IN THE CONFERENCE
Students are often not included in conferences for numerous reasons, but have you ever wondered if they had something pertinent to add? Teachers may find it beneficial to have students spend a few minutes before the conferences are to be held writing down their thoughts. Encourage students to reflect on the work they have completed so far and to mention any problems they may be having. This gives the child the opportunity to be heard during the conference and it will be interesting to see their perception of their work so far.
Do you agonize over upcoming conferences? How have you found is the best way to handle parent-teacher conferences? How do you handle a situation where you are having extreme difficulty making contact with parents?