The unknown is scary, and of all the moments of anticipation and anxiety that occur in an educator's life, there's one that reigns supreme: the parent-teacher meeting. Will my students' parents put the blame on me for poor grades? Will they question my instructional methods? Will anyone even show up?
In the 22 years I've been teaching, I've seen just about everything. I've had a parent ask me why I teach Macbeth when everyone knows Shakespeare is boring and antiquated. I've had to explain to a parent that her child was on her phone way too much in class while the parent obsessively texted on her own phone during our entire conversation. I've had parents tell me I shouldn't care about plagiarism—I should just be happy their child found the information at all.
Despite these occasional moments of friction, teachers should do their utmost to see parents as essential partners in their students' education. After all, have you ever met any parents who didn't want their child to succeed? Parents can be valuable allies in helping students achieve their best, and meetings are a great way to forge those bonds. Here are eight tips to help you conduct masterful, action-oriented parent-teacher meetings.
REPRINTED FROM THE ARTICLE WRITTEN BY
Award-Winning Teacher, M.A.Ed.
FOR WESTERN GOVERNORS UNIVERSITY
Don't forget to factor in some students' ninja-like ability to ensure their parents don't know conference times and dates; the same student who may have trouble on his math exams may be secretly adept at hacking into his dad's smartphone and deleting a voicemail. Repeated communication is occasionally necessary.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to even get parents into the building: work runs late, coordinating childcare is a headache, and language barriers may hinder communication. You can overcome some of these obstacles by finding culturally appropriate ways to welcome families and encourage them to become active participants in your classroom. Send invitations in a parent's native language, or have translators on hand. At my school, designated students handle basic translation of nonconfidential conversations, while school translators handle more delicate issues. If childcare is a problem, let parents know they can bring young ones to the meeting.
Set the right tone for your parent-teacher meeting by shaking hands, stating your name and the subject you teach, and mentioning how happy you are to be teaching their child. Smile warmly, and offer them a seat. If you're looking for an easy way to break the ice, share a positive anecdote about their child. For example, "Did Jeremiah tell you he was the first one to solve the difficult math problem yesterday?"
What are the Benefits of Parent-Teacher Conferences?
From the article written for etools4education
A parent-teacher conference helps to communicate to parents the areas their child are excelling in and to give them specific ideas of how to improve upon their child’s performance in school. Parent-teacher conferences should be used as a platform to make a lasting bond with the parent to increase the likelihood of academic success for their child. Parent-teacher conferences should not be used as a venue to acknowledge the flaws and inabilities of students, but as a stepping stone to foster improvement within each child. A few helpful hints for teachers to follow when conducting parent-teacher conferences are listed below.
Acceptable behavior during parent-teacher conferences:
etools4Education 2021, Parent Teacher Conference, accessed 12 September 2021,
Explain Objectives and Expectations
PARENT/TEACHER CONFERENCES NAD Principals’ Handbook Excerpt
To effectively communicate student progress, the school should facilitate parent teacher conferences at least twice a year. These conferences are most commonly held at the end of the first and third quarters to provide a mid-term report. In addition to giving the parents a copy of the student’s report card, standardized assessment results can be shared at the first conference of the year. Factors to consider:
For scheduling conferences
I like to give parents an overview of the goals for my classes and a copy of our reading list. I discuss the expectations I have for my students and explain any language that a parent might not be familiar with: rubric, scaffolding, readiness, testing acronyms, etc. In addition, I provide parents with a copy of my classroom policies to review and sign, which helps avoid any confusion in the future.
Parents want to see that the teacher knows their child and has a plan for their success. Review your students' grades and portfolios before the conferences. Jot down notes about each student, anticipate questions or parental concerns, and reread any prior parent communication so you don't miss a beat.
Create an Action Plan
Parents don't want a laundry list of concerns dumped in their laps—they want to know how you're going to fix the problem. Create an action plan that clearly lays out the specific steps that the teacher, the parent, and the student will need to take in order for the student to be successful. For instance, if Gabriela doesn't complete essays because she has a difficult time writing introductions, her written action plan should include an agreement that she'll notify you when she needs help, that you'll meet with her to provide assistance, and that her parents will make sure that she spends time at home crafting her essay.
Use the Good-Bad-Good Sandwich
When it comes to discussing tough topics with a parent, this trick is the silver bullet. Start by highlighting something positive—"Gerald's writing shows an insight I don't often see in students his age"—then move on to the issue: "The problem is that Gerald is often off-task, and I've caught him on his phone several times. When he's not paying attention, he misses valuable class content." Discuss your action plan for correcting the behavior, and finish up with another positive statement: "With Gerald's strong writing ability and his improved attention in class, I know he'll have a successful year." The good-bad-good sandwich is practically foolproof.
Don't Tolerate Abuse
I've had parents threaten to call the superintendent, the mayor, the pope (OK, maybe not the pope, but you get the idea). If a parent becomes abusive, simply end the meeting; explain how they can take up the matter with the principal. There's no reason you have to let a parent bully or intimidate you.
Keep Lines of Communication Open
Explain to parents how they can get in touch with you after the meeting, and ask the best way to reach them. Encourage them to ask questions, provide updates, and express concerns as they see fit.
An Interview with
(Parent of a Rising 5th Grader)
By Carla Thrower | Associate Director of Secondary Education—Southern Union Conference
Ms. Green makes sure that she schedules and attends parent-teacher Conferences each year as a mother to a rising 5th-grade student. She reflects on the parent-teacher Conferences that were most impactful to her and her son. As a single parent who often requests to take leave from her job to attend Parent-Teacher conferences, the time spent speaking with the classroom teacher must be meaningful. In addition, meetings with the teachers provide an opportunity to get a snapshot of the school life of her son. It is this partnership between the school and home that continues to ensure his academic success.
Is the parent-teacher conference important to you and if so, why?
“The parent-teacher conference is significantly important to me because I want to know how my son is doing academically and if there are any behavior issues I need to be aware of.”
What have you appreciated most about the parent-teacher conferences that you have attended in the past?
“I appreciate when the teacher lets me know what my son is doing well. I also appreciate when the teacher gives me suggestions and ideas that I can use at home. My son does not always like when I use some of the words (vocabulary) that the teacher uses, but I do, LOL, because it shows my son that we (the teacher and mom) are working together.”
What would you recommend take place or would like to see included in the parent-teacher conference?
“All of the teachers that I have experienced have tried to cover everything in our conference, however there is not always time for follow up. I don’t always hear that some of the strategies that the teachers ask that I use at home are working at school. I would like to know if things are working or if we should do something different.”
Ultimately what do parents desire from the parent-teacher conference?
“I really just want to know if my child is doing alright in school and how I can help him do better. I could talk to the teacher on the phone or ask questions through emails, but it is so much better to meet in person so that I can engage with the teacher and see the space where my son learns each day. I want to know how he keeps his space and how he moves around the room.”
Bumps in the road happen, but 98 percent of my parent-teacher meetings over the years have been meaningful and effective. Some of my students' parents have even become strong advocates for my classroom. And many have truly gone the extra mile for teachers.
For instance, for three years while her child was in my class, one parent made sure to bring me a home-cooked Italian dinner before every single parent-teacher conference. By graduation, I felt like I needed to give that parent my Social Security number so she could put me down as a dependent on her income tax—boy, I sure miss all that pasta e fagioli and lasagna.
Parents and teachers are on the same team when it comes to helping students achieve. Following these steps can help you create partnerships with parents and ensure that all your students are equipped to succeed.
Western Governors University, Mastering the Parent-Teacher Meeting: Eight Powerful Tips, accessed 12 September 2021.