This is a guest post written by Carolyn Gardner who is the blog author at The Proactive Teacher. Carolyn is an educator with twenty years of teaching experience in second and third grades.
I recently finished my parent teacher conferences for the second trimester. I had some great conversations with parents about their children. Relationships with families were strengthened. The interesting thing was, I didn’t request any of the conferences. How do you proactively prepare for conferences you didn’t request?
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- Remain positive. When a parent requests a conference it doesn’t mean they have an issue with you or your instructional practice. They may simply want to check in with you on how their child is doing. A brief meeting with you may be just what they need to set their minds at ease. Start with compliments about how their child is doing if you don’t have concerns and then ask if they have any questions.
- Prepare. If you didn’t request the conference, it’s also important to be prepared with data. Your student’s family may have questions about the report card so have it ready to view together. You may also want to email them ahead of time and ask if there are any specific questions they wanted to discuss so you can have additional materials prepared to share.
- Create a welcoming atmosphere. To encourage a relaxed and comfortable tone for your meetings, little things can mean a lot. I like to have a little bowl of mints or chocolates available. Candy tends make everyone smile! Some quiet, calm music in the background can also help.
- Put yourself in their shoes. It’s only within the last few years that I’ve started sitting on the other side of the desk as a parent. That has helped me understand that when parents come to a conference, they may be a little nervous about what they may hear. They may need your advice, encouragement, or your confirmation of something that they are noticing at home. Realize your role to support and encourage, and trust your own expertise. You are partnering together in the educational welfare of their child.
If you go into a conference that you didn’t request with a positive attitude, you are setting yourself up for a positive experience. Stephen Covey, the author of “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, spoke about making deposits into people’s ’emotional bank accounts’. Each time we do that we are creating stronger relationships. Look at these meetings as opportunities to grow relationships with your students’ families.
I’m including a note-taking resource for you. I’ve used it for years to help me organize my thoughts in advance, as well as jot down next steps during my parents meetings. I hope you find it helpful.
I came away from my parent meetings this term with some new information about my students and their families that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Together we set goals and celebrated their children’s successes. I also came away motivated to create more opportunities for families to be connected to their children’s daily experiences in the classroom. As teachers, we can create a tone in our conferences that is supportive, encouraging and positive. As a result we will have stronger relationships with our students and their families.
What are your thoughts about the tips that were shared in this post? How do you prepare for parent-teacher conferences? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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