As parent-teacher conferences loom, educators start to get nervous. We work hard to get all of our ducks in a row—the test score data, the report cards, and the examples of student work. There’s an enormous amount of anxiety and stress thinking about how to accurately convey details about each student’s successes and struggles. Will parents push back on my assessment of their child? How in the world will I squeeze in all I want to say in a few short minutes? Will the parents even show up?
Since becoming a parent I’ve been able to sit on the other side of the table and see things from a different perspective. I’ve reflected on the purpose of the parent-teacher conference and come to the realization that less is more! Less data, fewer numbers and more stories, more connection.
Reframe your thinking, save time and make each meeting work for everyone with our 4 secrets to successful parent-teacher conferences!
1. Let parents guide the focus.
As you begin your conversation, set the purpose of the meeting by simply asking, “What questions do you have about your child that I can answer for you today?” Then, just listen. Maybe even jot down a few notes to help keep you on track. Some parents have a particular burning question that they’ve been waiting to ask, others just want to hear about their child’s social adjustment or reading progress. One great way to get parents thinking prior to the conference is to send home a Pre-Conference Questionnaire. The point is that the conference should be an opportunity for open communication. Once you’ve answered the parent’s questions, you can get to your classroom policies, student work samples, and test score data.
2. Don’t lead with data, start with the big picture.
Is the child on track with grade-level expectations? Does the child have friends and participate in class? There’s nothing a parent hates more than a long detailed run-down of the report card. As a parent, I much preferred to read it at home! Instead, start your conference with an overview or snapshot of where the student stands and only drill down into the details if there’s time. A nice way to end the meeting is with one specific way a parent can support from home.
3. Tell positive stories.
As a parent, this was always my favorite part! Hearing stories about when my child helped to cheer up a friend or that time when she created an amazing piece of art are what I remember the most. Personal, positive stories about a child’s successes sends the message that you see the good in each child. Time spent building positive connections between home and school will always yield high rewards.
4. Go digital to continue the dialogue!
Use technology to your advantage and offer opportunities for parents to gather more information, ask follow-up questions and view what’s happening in class after the conference is over. Here are a few resources to go digital:
- Use QR codes to explain the focus of classroom curriculum or share student work
- Use Google Forms to send a pre-conference questionnaire or post-conference survey to gather parent feedback
- Let parents see and hear learning in action using a tool like Flipgrid to capture video
Research shows that taking the time to nurture strong home-school partnerships can lead to increased parent involvement and student achievement as well as improved teacher morale. While Parent-Teacher conferences add another layer of stress to an already busy schedule, just a few minor changes can positively impact the success of your school year!