Tips for Successful Parent-Teacher Conferences - Before, During and After

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Parent-teacher conferences can be a great opportunity for meaningful conversations about how students can reach their full potential in school. To help ensure meetings are positive and productive for everyone involved, below are a few tips to consider before, after, and during conferences.


Before the Conferences

When scheduling conferences, try to offer parents a variety of times and dates to accommodate work and childcare schedules. Suggest phone or video conferences for parents who are unable to attend in person. When necessary, arrange for language translators to be present. To help ensure a good turnout, remind parents of their scheduled meeting date/time about a week before.

Gather student work samples, test data, progress reports, IEPs, 504 Plans, and any other documents with information you would like to share or reference. 

Create a simple agenda pertaining to each student, which might include:

  • Student Strengths/Successes
  • Student Challenges
  • Plan of Action/Next Steps

Create a welcoming meeting space with (adult-sized) tables and chairs, along with pens and paper for parents to jot down notes. When feasible, provide a box of tissues (there are occasional tears shed and we’re on the brink of cold and flu season!), mints, and bottles of water. Line your classroom walls and the hallway outside your door with student artwork and work samples for parents to view. Also, provide games, puzzles, coloring books and crayons for younger siblings attending the conferences.

Consider giving students more responsibility and accountability by having them lead the conferences.  Student-led conferences shine the spotlight on the students, but still involve a significant amount of front-end preparation and planning. For example, students should compile work samples (projects, tests, homework assignments, etc.) to create a portfolio, write a self-reflection about their progress and performance in class, and set goals for the upcoming semester/grading period. Students also need time to practice presenting their portfolios and explaining their progress and performance. You can learn more about student-led conferences here.

 

During the Conferences

Before getting started, take a breath and share a positive anecdote about the student. For example, “Did you read Beth’s persuasive essay about why cats are better than dogs? She was quite convincing!” or “According to Ben, it sounds like you had a memorable family trip to the zoo last weekend.” Small talk can help to put everyone at ease. 

Assure parents that their partnership with educators is crucial for their child by asking them to share about how school is going from their perspective. Ask questions such as:

  • “What do you want your child to accomplish this year?”
  • “What does your child enjoy/dislike about school?” and
  • “What has helped your child to be successful in the past?”

Use your agenda as a springboard for discussion – highlight the positives and address any concerns with ideas on how to further support the student. Oftentimes, parents primarily want to know if their children are well-adjusted in school. Who are their friends? Do they get their work in on time? Are they kind and respectful?  Encourage parents to share their own insights regarding their child’s strengths, interests, challenges, and next steps. 

Out of respect for everyone’s time do your best to stay on schedule. If a meeting is going longer than anticipated or if parents arrived late, invite them to continue the conversation later over the phone. 

 

After the Conferences

Send thank you notes to parents who attended. Better yet - have your students write the thank you notes! Invite parents to contact you if they have additional questions or concerns. Be sure to follow through by providing parents with any promised resources related to action plans discussed (for example: student accommodations, contact information for related service providers, work to be completed at home, etc.). And don’t forget to follow-up with answers to any unanswered questions that might have popped up during conference time.

Finally, give yourself something to look forward to by treating yourself to whatever you might enjoy after conferences are over. Dinner at your favorite restaurant, tickets to a movie, a massage, an hour to yourself – you deserve it!


Best wishes for a positive and productive parent-teacher conference season!


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Jill Rockwell
Jill has over 13 years of experience as a licensed teacher in the areas of Special Education, Reading Education, and Health Education. She embraces diversity and has worked with students in grades K-12 in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and California. Jill completed her Master of Science degree at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls while teaching full time. She fully understands the soaring demands of today’s teachers. Her courses are designed to maximize the time of all educators by providing engaging, meaningful, and applicable activities which can be used to enhance teaching practices. She focuses on research-based best practices and technology integration throughout her own instructional practices. Together with her husband and two young boys, Jill enjoys traveling, biking and the changing seasons of the great outdoors in Wisconsin.