Tips for Parent Conferences

How Teachers Can Best Prepare

2 Kids With a TeacherTeacher conferences serve as invaluable opportunities for educators to engage with parents and guardians, fostering collaboration and support for students’ academic and personal growth. To ensure these meetings are productive and impactful, thorough preparation is essential. In this blog post, we’ll explore strategies for teachers to effectively prepare for teacher conferences, empowering them to engage meaningfully with families and promote student success.

Review Student Progress – Start by reviewing each student’s academic and behavioral progress. Gather relevant data, such as assessment scores, grades, attendance records, and samples of student work. Reflect on areas of strength and areas needing improvement, as well as any concerns or challenges observed in the classroom.

Set Goals and Objectives – Establish clear goals and objectives for each conference based on the individual needs and circumstances of the student. Determine the key topics to discuss with parents, such as academic performance, social-emotional development, behavior management, and goal setting.

Gather Resources – Collect any resources or materials that may be helpful during the conference, such as student portfolios, progress reports, behavior charts, and examples of instructional strategies or interventions used in the classroom. Ensure that all necessary documents are organized and readily accessible.

Anticipate Questions and Concerns – Anticipate questions or concerns that parents may have about their child’s progress or behavior. Prepare thoughtful responses and explanations to address common inquiries, such as assessment results, homework expectations, classroom routines, and opportunities for enrichment or support.

Personalize Communication – Tailor your communication approach to the needs and preferences of each family. Consider cultural, linguistic, and socioeconomic factors that may impact communication and adapt your approach accordingly. Use clear and jargon-free language to ensure understanding and engagement.

Create a Welcoming Environment – Set the stage for a positive and productive conference by creating a welcoming and comfortable environment. Arrange seating arrangements to facilitate open dialogue and ensure privacy. Provide refreshments and amenities to make parents feel valued and respected.

Practice Active Listening – Practice active listening skills to ensure parents feel heard and understood during the conference. Maintain eye contact, nod in agreement, and paraphrase key points to demonstrate attentiveness and empathy. Encourage parents to share their perspectives and insights openly.

Empower Collaboration – Foster a spirit of collaboration and partnership with parents by emphasizing shared goals and responsibilities for student success. Solicit input from parents on strategies and interventions that have been effective at home and seek their input on developing action plans for improvement.

Offer Resources and Support – Provide parents with resources, tools, and support services available to assist them in supporting their child’s academic and personal development. Offer guidance on accessing community resources, seeking additional academic support, or addressing specific concerns or challenges.

How Teachers Can Help Set Positive Expectations for Children

Setting good expectations for children is crucial for their academic, social, and emotional development. As key partners in a child’s education, teachers play a vital role in helping parents establish positive expectations for their kids. In this blog post, we’ll explore practical strategies that teachers can employ to support parents in setting and maintaining high expectations for their children.

Open Communication Channels – Foster open lines of communication with parents from the beginning of the school year. Establishing trust and rapport with families creates a supportive environment where parents feel comfortable discussing their expectations, concerns, and goals for their children.

Provide Regular Updates – Keep parents informed about their child’s progress and achievements through regular updates, such as progress reports, parent-teacher conferences, and communication platforms like emails or newsletters. Transparent communication helps parents stay engaged and informed about their child’s academic performance and areas needing improvement.

Share Developmental Milestones – Educate parents about age-appropriate developmental milestones and academic expectations for different grade levels. Providing guidance on what to expect in terms of cognitive, social, and emotional growth can help parents set realistic and achievable goals for their children.

Set High, Yet Attainable Goals – Encourage parents to set high, yet attainable goals for their children, based on their individual strengths, interests, and abilities. Emphasize the importance of setting goals that are challenging but realistic, allowing children to experience success while still pushing themselves to reach their full potential.

Focus on Effort and Growth – Shift the focus away from solely outcome-based expectations and instead emphasize the importance of effort, growth, and resilience. Encourage parents to praise their child’s hard work, perseverance, and progress, rather than solely focusing on grades or test scores.

Promote a Growth Mindset – Educate parents about the concept of a growth mindset and its importance in fostering resilience, motivation, and a love of learning in children. Encourage parents to praise their child’s efforts, embrace challenges as opportunities for growth, and view setbacks as learning experiences.

Model Positive Expectations – Lead by example and model positive expectations for children in the classroom. Create a supportive and inclusive learning environment where all students feel valued, respected, and capable of achieving success. Demonstrate a belief in each child’s potential and celebrate their achievements, no matter how big or small.

Provide Resources and Support – Offer parents resources, tools, and strategies to support their child’s academic and personal development at home. Recommend books, websites, workshops, or community programs that can help parents reinforce positive expectations, promote learning, and build essential skills in their children.

Encourage Collaboration – Encourage parents to collaborate with teachers and school staff to create a cohesive support system for their child. Work together to identify areas of strength and areas needing improvement, set mutual goals, and develop action plans to support the child’s growth and development.

Celebrate Progress – Celebrate and acknowledge the progress, achievements, and milestones of each child throughout the school year. Recognize and praise their efforts, improvements, and contributions to the classroom community, reinforcing the message that hard work and dedication lead to success.

By partnering with parents and providing guidance, support, and resources, teachers can help empower families to set positive expectations for their children. Together, educators and parents can create a nurturing and supportive environment that fosters growth, resilience, and success for every child.

This article comes from TSTA/NEA and is provided to us courtesy of Inspiring Teachers Publishing.

Invite both parents.   Encourage both parents to attend conferences when possible.  Misunderstandings are less common if both parents hear what you have to say, and you’ll be able to gauge the kind of support both parents give the child.  (Of course, remember that both mother and father may not be available.  Today, when some 60 percent of adult women work outside the home, it may not always be the mother who’s available to meet.  And many children come from single-parent homes; you could unwittingly hurt a child’s feelings by always asking to meet the “mother.”)

Make contact early.  You’ll get your relationship with parents off to a good start if you contact them early in the year, perhaps with a memo or newsletter sent home to all pupils.  Give parents an outline of what their children will be studying, and let them know you’ll be happy to meet with them during the year.  (Be sure to say how and when they may contact you for conferences.)

Allow enough time.  Schedule plenty of time for the meeting.  Twenty to thirty minutes is usually adequate.  If you’re scheduling back-to-back conferences, be sure to allow enough time between them (10 minutes or so) so you can make necessary notes on the just-concluded conference and prepare for the upcoming one.

Be ready for questions.  Be prepared to answer specific questions parents may have.  They’re likely to ask questions such as: -What is my child’s ability level?
-Is my child working up to his/her ability level?
-How is my child doing in specific subjects?
-Does my child cause any trouble?
-Does my child have any specific skills or abilities in schoolwork?

Get your papers organized in advance.  Assemble your grade book, test papers, samples of the student’s work, attendance records and other pertinent data together ahead of time.  That way you won’t be fumbling through stacks on your desk during the meeting.

Plan ahead.  Have in mind a general but flexible outline of what you’re going to say, including a survey of student progress, a review of his or her strengths and needs, and a proposed plan of action.

Greet parents near the entrance they’ll use.  You’ll alleviate anxiety and frustration (nothing is more confusing to the uninitiated than wandering around those look-alike school hallways trying to find the right classroom) and makes parents feel more welcome.

Get the name right.  Don’t assume that Jennifer Peabody’s mother is Mrs. Peabody. She could well have been married again since Jennifer was born.  Check your records ahead of time to make sure you’ve got the parents’ names right.  And don’t assume that the wrinkled gray-haired gentleman coming in with Johnny is his grandfather.  It could be his father, or an uncle.  Politely ask.  Try not to talk to the Smiths about their son “Stan” when their son’s name is “Steve”.

Avoid physical barriers.  Don’t sit behind your desk, while forcing the parents to squeeze into the children’s desks on the front row or perch miserably on folding chairs. Arrange a conference-style seating if possible so you’ll all be equals together.

Open on a positive note.  Begin conferences on a warm, positive note to get everyone relaxed. Start with a positive statement about the child’s abilities, work or interests.

Structure the session.  As soon as the parents arrive, review the structure of the conference–the why, what, how, and when so that you’ll both have an “agenda”.

Be specific in your comments.  Parents may flounder if you deal only in generalities. Instead of saying “She doesn’t accept responsibility,” pin down the problem by pointing out “Amanda had a whole week to finish her report but she only wrote two paragraphs.”

Offer a suggested course of action.  Parents appreciate being given some specific direction. If Jane is immature, it might be helpful to suggest parents give her a list of weekly chores, allow her to take care of a pet, or give her a notebook to write down assignments. (Of course, when you offer advice, let parents know you’re only making a suggestion.)

Forget the jargon.  Education jargon phrases like “criterion-referenced testing,” “perceptual skills” and “least restrictive environment” may be just too much double-talk to many parents.

Turn the other cheek.  In routine parent conferences, it’s unusual to run into parents who are abusive and hostile. But it can happen. Try to not be rude, whatever the provocation.  Hear out the parents in as pleasant a manner as possible, without getting defensive if you can.

Ask for parents’ opinions.  Let parents know you’re interested in their opinions, are eager to answer their questions and want to work with them throughout the year to help make their child’s education the best.

Focus on strengths.  It’s very easy for parents to feel defensive since many of them see themselves in their children. You’ll help if you review the child’s strengths and areas of need rather than dwelling on criticism or stressing weaknesses.

Use body language.  Non-verbal cues set the mood of the conference.  Smile, nod, make eye contact and lean forward slightly.  You’ll be using your body language to let parents know you’re interested and approving.

Stress collaboration.  Let the parent know you want to work together in the best interests of the child.  A statement like “You need to see me as soon as possible to discuss Johnny’s poor study habits” only arouses hostility, while “I’d like to discuss with you how we might work together to improve Johnny’s study habits” gets the relationship off on the right foot.

Listen to what parents say.  Despite the fact that we spend nearly a third of our lives listening, most adults are poor listeners. We concentrate on what we’re going to say next, or we let our minds drift off to other concerns, or we hear only part of what a speaker is saying. You’ll get more out of a parent conference if you really listen to what parents are saying to you.

Ask about the child.  You don’t want to pry, of course, but remember to ask the parents if there’s anything they think you should know about the child (such as study habits, relationship with siblings, any important events in his or her life) which may affect his or her school work.

Focus on solutions.  Ideally all parent conferences would concern only positive events. Realistically, many conferences are held because there’s a problem somewhere. Things will go smoother if you focus on solutions rather than on the child’s problem. Discuss what you and the parents can do to help improve the situation. Plan a course of action together.

Don’t judge. It may not always be possible to react neutrally to what parents say, but communicating your judgments of parents’ behaviors can be a roadblock to a productive relationship with them.

Summarize.  Before the conference ends, summarize the discussion and what actions you and the parents have decided to take.

Wind up on a positive note.  When you can, save at least one encouraging comment or positive statement about the student for the end of the conference.

Meet again if you need to.  If you feel you need more time, arrange another meeting later rather than trying to rush everything before the kids get back from art class.

Keep a record of the conference.  You may find it helpful later to have a brief record of what was said at the conference, what suggestions for improvement were made and so forth. Make notes as soon as possible after the conference while the details are still fresh.

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