Better Student-Parent-Teacher Conferences
Ideally, student, parents, and teacher form a learning team. Conferences create an environment of free exchange among all three components of a team. Unfortunately, in the secondary setting, conferences typically convene when there is a problem to solve, and the role of the classroom teacher becomes crucial. This week, we offer tips to improve the quality of the student-parent-teacher conferences you host.
This Week's Tips
Lay the Groundwork for the Conference (Monday)
Plan for an effective conference. First, be certain that the purpose for the conference is clear to everyone who will be involved. Secondly, agree on a suitable time and place to meet and then clear your schedule - give your undivided attention to the conference. Finally, gather artifacts that evidence both the positives and negatives concerning the student’s effort and productivity in your class. Consider these artifacts before the conference and be able to explain specifically the strengths and weaknesses evidenced in the artifacts.
Be Positive and Welcoming to the Parents (Tuesday)
Be prepared to open the conference with casual conversation. Offer the parents a cup of coffee or a glass of water. The parents are on your turf, and for many parents this is very disconcerting. Help them feel comfortable and you will find them more open to listening and sharing. Begin with positive comments about the student; convey to the parents that you are on the side of the child.
Be an Active Listener at Conferences (Wednesday)
Actively listen to the parents' concerns and comments. Remember that a conference should be an opportunity for a “free” exchange of information. Ask open-ended questions and guide parents through these questions to help them draw conclusions about a plan of action that will help the student. Listen closely, paraphrase their responses, and try to put yourself in the shoes of the parent or student. Consider what the parents are feeling to understand better how best to help the child succeed in the classroom.
Create a Written Document for Conferences (Thursday)
Prior to the conference, create a written plan and duplicate it. Provide a copy to everyone in attendance. This plan should contain a focus or purpose for the conference, concerns addressed, and a plan of action. Participants in the conference should sign the document and leave with a copy.
Schedule a Follow-up Conference (Friday)
Include a date for a follow-up conference in the plan of action, if necessary. At that time, review the plan and make necessary revisions. Share positive comments and observations of changes that have been or still need to be made on the part of the student. Set a positive tenor and be willing to follow up as needed.