“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.” By Tony Robbins
It is that time a year when teachers around the world are starting their parent-teacher conferences. I value an open community and believe that through a partnership between family and school we can support and challenge students to their full potential. With this being said, conferences play a huge part in gaining parents trust that you are doing whats best for their child. In order to have conferences be as successful as possible below are my tips and tricks I have learned over the years.
1. Start by being prepared and organized of how you will manage your conferences. I recommend using Sign Up Genius (it is free) to schedule your conferences. Parents can sign up for the time slot that you have available and the parent can also request an email reminder that the site provides. Make sure you have enough time to discuss each student without making it seem you are ‘rushing’ through because this is a requirement. I schedule mine to last 20 mines but I make the slot a 1/2 an hour. This allows what I call ‘buffer’ time for things such as if the parents running a few minutes late or they have more questions for you etc.
2. The arrangement of the conference is very important. You don’t want to sit behind a table but next to the parent at a table. This helps it feel less confrontational and shows the parent that you are literally on the same side as them; doing whats best for the student. Another key ingredient that goes a long way is refreshments. This relaxes the atmosphere and shows you care. It might cost you $20.00 to get some bottled water and snacks but to me it is worth it to help set up the year for success. I always provided donuts for morning conferences and cookies in the afternoon. Many times parents didn’t take the snacks but that just left more for the teachers in the break-room. 🙂
3. Be prepared! Make sure you have all the student data and information you want to discuss so the parent can see examples. I also suggest making a checklist of things you want to discuss and have it on the board as an agenda. This is not only to help you keep track of what you need to say but also lets the parent sees you are talking about the same key points for every child. This also helps to keep things moving and prevents the parent taking over the conference. Make sure that nothing in the conference is a surprise. Constant communication is key to any relationship. If there is a problem or concern they should already know about it.
Other tips that will help make conferences more successful:
* Student lead conference is a great way to hold students accountable and allows the parents to see how much their child knows. Let the student ‘walk’ through their portfolio and discuss what they have been learning.
* For every negative (or concern) make sure there is at least 2 positives. Some refer to this the Oreo method or sandwich. If bringing up a concern make sure you have a suggested solution and also ask for the parents input, as they also know what works for their child too.
* Don’t get defensive.
* Don’t forget to discuss the ‘data’ that is part of the hidden curriculum. Ex. What is the student passionate about? What do they bring to the table as far as
* Make sure to ask the parents if they have any questions. Answer as best you can and realize sometimes you might have to say, ‘I don’t know but I will find out and get back to you.’
* Be flexible. Remember they have a job too. If they can’t make it to some of the time slots you have given-try a phone conference, Skype or Google hangout.
*Give suggestions for what parents can do at home to help.
Lastly, even if you don’t have kids, think about how you would want to be treated if it was your child’s conference.