+ Tips for Teachers: Parent Conferences

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From enotes.com, the “Teacher’s Corner” newsletter:  tips for teachers to use when meeting with parents.

Since the school year takes on a certain rhythm, most of you have established working relationships with your students by now.

Your students probably already know what you expect of them.  And you know what to watch for when a student is having a bad day.

Perhaps you have already met a few parents by now, either through a formal Open House, or during one of those informal — often effective — conferences held in the grocery store parking lot.

Most parent conferences are great opportunities to share information that’s helpful for all parties.  Here are some tips:

  • Seating is important — so try to sit with no barrier (like a desk) between you and the parents.  Have adult-sized chairs, so no one has to squeeze into a tiny desk in the front row. The goal is not to have it feel like “us versus them.”  Convey the sense that we’re all adults with the same objective: we want this student to be successful. 
  • Look professional — bring paper and pencil to the conference so you will have notes to refer to later.  It also buys time if you jot something down while you’re trying to think of the right thing to say. 
  • Start with positives — parents need to know that you’re on their side and that everyone is on their child’s side.
  • Concerns: focus on behavior — and be as specific as possible.  Instead of “Brianna isn’t doing her best,” try “Brianna completed only 2 of 5 homework assignments.”  Sandwich a negative between two positives.
  • Have confidence, but admit shortcomings when appropriate — if you’re being criticised, remain confident in yourself and the curriculum; but be willing to admit when things could have been handled better.  Tell parents exactly what you’re doing to resolve an issue.
  • Be as neutral as possible in the face of negativity —be as professional as possible.  Many factors may be at play: if a parent’s own school experience was unhappy, he or she may not be able to hear what you say.  Keep the focus on their child. 
  • Close the conference with a summary — leave parents with a plan, and smiles, and handshakes.

No one can guarantee that parent conferences will go well.  In some cases, it may be helpful to have an administrator or lead teacher present.  I f things go badly, take some time after a day or two to relfect on what happened.  See if you can pinpoint what you will handle differently next time.

Parent-teacher conferences have never been more important than they are now, because we are all concerned not just about classroom behavior but also high-stakes standardized test scores.

A little preparation can help make the time you spend with parents fruitful for all of you.  And it can also improve your interaction with your students.

source: www.enotes.com “Teacher’s Corner” newsletter.  Visit the site  and receive the newsletter yourself — for links to valuable sites and great teaching tips.

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com   

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