Making the Most of a Parent-Teacher Conference

Its that time of year – September is over, and the free candy from Trick-or-Treat has not come in yet. That means…Parent conferences. For many teachers, parent conferences are often accompanied by a sense of trepidation. This feeling of anxiety may be from past experiences where parents pushed back on any critique or from hearing the stories about the ones who don’t understand how to help. Then.. there are the families who never show. Teachers, let me be the one to break the news; the meetings aren’t that much easier for parents. We rush to squeeze them in on a workday and rush to get the next one in. None of this may be true about parents or teachers…but you have heard it. 

So, how can we make parent-teacher meetings more productive? This topic is the focus I am working with all our new educators this week and wanted to share with you. I am going to concentrate on both the teachers’ and parents’ perspectives. This will help identify strategies to improve attendance, communication, and student outcomes.

Conducting effective parent-teacher conferences can boost family involvement in your classroom and help promote positive outcomes for you, your students, and your school.

A parent-teacher conference is an excellent opportunity to:

  • share academic progress and growth based on classroom observations, testing data, assessments, portfolios, and assignments
  • learn from parents or guardians so you can be better informed about students’ strengths, needs, behaviors, and learning styles
  • discuss enrichment or intervention strategies to support students’ learning
  • address issues that may be interfering with students’ learning and growth

Think about this question: “If I were a parent or family member, what would I want to know?” Having that mindset will help plan the conference, not just share what you think is essential to give.

Have background information

What are Assessments?

  • Assessments are essential for telling us what students are learning right now and what they retain over time. The types of evaluations we conduct are:
  • Have a list and the purpose of the assessment you give.

What is data used for?

  • The wide variety of assessment data shows student growth in learning over time:
    • It identifies who may be at risk
    • It defines who may need advanced instruction
    • It helps the teacher to construct groups of students who have similar learning needs for targeted instruction below, at or above grade level
    • It shows a pattern for learning over time that can alert us to concern should the pattern change suddenly
    • It shows a pattern for learning over time that can help us evaluate our intervention and it’s a success in accelerating learning for students below target

What are the roles and responsibilities of support staff?

Examples? Insert your own related services. Know who works with your students and share that with families.

Interventionalists

  • working with small groups of students for targeted instruction
  • working within classrooms to support students in applying taught skills in the general education environment
  • assesses identified students progress ongoing

Reading Specialists

  • coordinates school-wide assessment and manages and analyzes data in an ongoing fashion to support teachers in their instruction
  • assesses students on an individual level and consults with staff
  • facilitates building-wide intervention
  • provides professional development as it relates to teaching strategies that support student learning

Related Service

  • SEL
  • Counselors
  • Psychologists

Think about proactive ideas vs. reactive conference process

Before the conference, encourage families to:

  • email you in advance if there are specific questions you want to be answered or discussed so you can prepare.  
  • In a positive teacher-parent relationship, there should be no unpleasant surprises at a conference! Any serious concerns should have been communicated earlier as the focus of the conference is primarily on discussing a child’s overall progress, rather than on addressing specific concerns or incidents.
  • ask their your child if there is anything he or she would like you to discuss with the teacher.
  • review the grade level curriculum guidelines. The district link is on our website.
  • become familiar with the types of testing and assessments your child participates in.

Conference day encourage families to:

  • Arrive early. With only a few precious minutes to spend, you don’t want to be late. It will shorten your time with your child’s teacher and affect his or her day’s entire schedule.    
  • Try to secure babysitting for children so that we can focus on your child’s progress. If it is not possible, please bring activities for siblings to do.        
  • Let you know as soon as possible if you are unable to keep your scheduled appointment so he or she can reschedule at the earliest convenience.

Possible Meeting Progression

The meeting progression should be flexible depending on student need

Introductions

  • This may be the first time you have met your child’s teacher one-on-one.
  • The teacher may highlight a few goals for the student related to the report of student progress (ROSP)

Reading/Literacy Work and Testing

  • Review examples of your child’s writing
  • Hear what your child is learning
  • Review baseline testing and any current testing
  • Discuss any gaps that may exist and what is being done to address those gaps

Math Work and Testing

  • Review examples of your child’s math work
  • Hear what your child is learning
  • Review baseline testing with current testing
  • Discuss any gaps that may exist and what is being done to address those gaps

Emotional/Behavioral development

  • Hear about how your child behaves in the classroom and interacts with their peers
  • Inform your teacher about any issues or situations occurring at home that you feel could affect your child at school

Plans/path for future

  • Discuss overall interventions or enrichment that the school is doing
  • Ensure that all involved understand the plans

Advice for work at home

  • Hear tips for helping or encouraging your child at home, including reading leveled book suggestions, math topics or websites

Questions

  • Encourage parents to ask any questions that may not have been addressed (see below for examples)

Questions to Consider being ready for

This list is not a checklist, but rather a list of options for parents. Addressing all the questions would take far longer than the time frame of a parent-teacher conference.  

  • How is my child developing the necessary skills and knowledge?
  • What does my child do well, and what does he/she struggle with? Can you give me examples?
  • How do you know when my child is making progress, and when he/she needs additional help?
  • What are you doing to support and motivate him/her?
  • How do you challenge my child when he/she is doing well at something?
  • How do you support my child when he/she needs extra help?
  • What makes my child get excited about learning?
  • What can I do at home to support him/her?
  • Are there programs or services in the school that could also help my child?
  • Does my child seem engaged or happy at school?
  • Has he/she made friends?
  • How does my child get along with classmates and adults?
  • Does my child participate in class discussions and group activities?
  • Are there times when my child is more or less engaged?

After the Conference

  • Encourage parents to follow up. If you bring something to parents’ attention that needs to be addressed, encourage them to take steps to put the plan in motion, whether it’s helping with organizational skills, getting extra help, or addressing a social issue.
  • Share information with their child. Encourage them to start with the positive things the teacher had to say, then fill him/her in on any concerns you and the teacher discussed. Explain how you can all work together to ensure your child has a successful year.

Remember: The goal of both the teacher and the parent should be the success of the student, but sometimes parents and teachers have a hard time discussing tough issues. Try to keep the tone as positive as possible. Being proactive and having a process and information will maximize your time together. This process can be for all meetings, not just parent conferences. You got this and just think – free candy soon.

 

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