An involved and informed parent is a vital key to the success of your students, but most teachers only meet their students’ parents once or twice a year. How can you best make a parent/teacher conference meaningful and helpful for the parents, your students, and you?
- Send home a form. Giving parents an idea of what will be discussed at the meeting along with a list of skills their children have learned so far will allow parents to enter the meeting more informed and more comfortable. Sending home a short questionnaire asking about concerns before the meeting can also help you better prepare and add structure to the meeting.
- Be prepared with samples and examples. Have a folder of work, good and bad, to share with the parents. If you are going to bring up a major concern, be sure to have documented incidents of events. For example, don’t tell parents that their child has been generally disrupting class; give them specific instances of disturbances that involved their child.
- Mix praise with concerns. Parents will become overwhelmed if you meet them with a laundry list of issues. In the same way, a meeting may not be constructive if you only list student accomplishments. Deliver positive news with areas of concerns and don’t begin or end on a sour note. Suggest ways that the student’s strengths could help him overcome his problems: “Bobby’s can-do attitude could surely help his struggles in math.”
- Consider including the child. Some instructors find that the best way to keep everyone on the same page is to include everyone in the meeting. The child will understand what he or she has been excelling at as well as what needs improvement. In addition, it gives the child an opportunity to offer plans for improvement and feel like a team member.
- Have a plan of action. If you are going to bring up major concerns about a student, have an action plan ready to offer the parents. It is frustrating when a problem is discussed without a possible resolution, so be ready with options for encouraging improvement.
- Don’t save big problems for the conference. Be sure to communicate with parents throughout the year so that they aren’t surprised with bad news at the conference. If their child is failing or suffering from behavioral problems, they are going to know why they weren’t informed of the problem sooner.
- Plan to talk again soon. Especially if you discuss a plan of action for the student in question, make certain to follow up with the parents on how that plan is progressing. You don’t have to meet again face-to-face if that is too difficult to arrange – make use of the parent’s email address and phone number.