Make Parent-teacher Conferences More Productive for My Students and Their Parents
When you join forces with the parents of your students, you form a powerful alliance. As allies, you both begin with a belief that student success is a shared goal. Parent-teacher conferences are an opportunity to communicate around this cause.
Factoid: More than 100 million parent-teacher conferences take place each year, from pre-kindergarten through high school.
Tip: The following Web sites offer valuable resources for parent-teacher conferences:
These Web sites are an excellent online resource offering parents, educators, and communities ideas on how to help children succeed in their education.
Prepare for my conferences by having all materials available.
Make sure you are on time. Prepare all materials ahead of time, such as anecdotal notes, test results, work samples, and grades. Having everything available at the conference allows you to present information in a concrete way, rather than in vague references.
Review each student's cumulative file prior to the conference.
Be cognizant of whether or not that child has a plan in place for special needs, such as an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or a 504 plan. Talk to other teachers. Look at previous records. Make sure you are following recommendations that were set forth the previous year. For example, a student may require preferential seating in the classroom. You need to be aware of this accommodation.
Encourage my students to attend conferences with their parents.
Conferences are useful because they push you to reflect on each student and their schoolwork. To go through a student's portfolio with him or her, and talk together about their academic progress and behavior, would be all the more meaningful. In addition, if you need a parents' help with a discipline issue, it is definitely better for the child to be there so there is no confusion about who is saying what. Plus, the only people who know what the child is like at school and home are present, not absent.
Begin each conference with a positive statement.
Start each conference with an upbeat statement about the child. Let's say your conference is in regards to off-task behavior. You could start with, "Lisa has such a great personality and her peers are drawn to her." This will help the parent to be more open to the situation you are about to discuss.
Create a handout on how parents can help their child at home.
Always give the parents a pre-made handout with tips suggesting ways to help their child at home. Be specific about how academic or social behaviors need to change in order for improvement to be realized. Sometimes, particularly at the very end of a term, there is no time for remedying the situation. Do not be afraid to say so. Just move on to how the next term can be much better.
Bring closure to each conference by reviewing the follow-up plan.
Reiterate what the follow-up plan will be for their child in the school and home environment. Emphasize the importance of working together to resolve any concerns. Ask for the parents’ e-mail address. Take an extra five minutes before leaving school or in between conferences to write to the parents saying that you enjoyed meeting them. Let them know that if they have any further questions, they can call or e-mail you. Provide a schedule for the times you can be reached.
Get help: Request a school specialist if further evaluations are needed. At times, the intervention of a school psychologist, counselor, special education teacher, or other personnel will be beneficial to that child. Inform the parents that you will be asking the appropriate school staff to get involved. Take advantage of the available expertise within your building or district.
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