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Top Parent Teacher Conference Tips For Teachers

There's no doubt about it: parent teacher conferences can be a nerve-wracking experience during your first year of teaching (or any year, for that matter). Sitting in front of students' parents, discussing their child, can cause actual anxiety and stress.


But, conference time doesn't have to be traumatic for you, the parent, or the student.



parent teacher conference meeting

Parent Teacher Conference Tips for Teachers


In this blog post, I'll share tips that will not only help your parent teacher conferences run smoothly - They'll make you look like an old pro!



TIP #1 - Let Students Participate

The best tip I can give to new teachers is to include your students. Instead of a parent-teacher meeting, make it a parent-student-teacher meeting. It's a great way to take some of the pressure off of you and lets students be actively involved in their own education starting at a young age. Here are a few easy ideas for student participation:

Prior to the conference, have the student write or share a success and an improvement they could make. This will allow them to reflect on their performance and behavior before you even have to. This also gives them an idea of what you'll be discussing with their parent and reduce some of the anxiety they may have.

student holding up work sample at parent teacher conference

Let the child pick a few work samples they are proud of! Maybe it’s a video you made of them reading all of their sight words or one of their fast finisher projects. A student work sample can be as simple as a drawing they created during recess.


An added bonus - students will take a little more ownership of their work if they know they'll be sharing it with their parents.


Some school districts are actually

moving to student-led conferences. This is when students actually LEAD the discussion and show off what they are learning. The teacher is just there to facilitate. Whatever your school's approach is, including your students is a great idea! Student inclusion can produce amazing things to talk about with parents. The child can join the conversation, add their own insight, and give you some jumping-off points if you just don't know where to start. Another major benefit is when there's a language barrier to overcome. The student can help facilitate communication if the parents don't speak English well.


TIP #2 - Keep It Positive

When conferencing with parents, it is always important to keep a positive attitude. Yes, there will be times when you need to share bad news; but it doesn't need to change the tone of the meeting.


The best way to do this is by sharing examples of student success, too! It goes a long way toward making parent conferences a good experience for everyone.


How do you do this?


Start and end the conference by talking about the student's strengths.


  • “Jayvion is always enthusiastic and ready to learn when he walks into the classroom.”

  • “Thank you for coming. I'm excited to share Emma's growth this year.”


Opening with positive comments will start your meeting on the right foot. Ending with something else positive ensures that parents leave on a good note.


Don’t focus on the negative.

The bottom line is that no one wants to hear bad things about their child. So be sure to practice the Positive Sandwich rule. That mean whatever negative issues you need to discuss should be sandwiched between good comments.


A negative comment should be presented in a way that focuses on what you DO want from the student.

  • “Ben is often very talkative during class which can cause distractions. He's outgoing and has many friends which is great! But I’d love for him to save his conversations for the appropriate time because he is missing important instruction when chatting.“

I know this can be hard to do sometimes. The book Teach Like a Champion 2.0 has a large section about positive framing. Instead of saying, “ Don’t run!”, teachers should try saying, “Please, walk.” Focus on the action we want the student to achieve, not the action we don’t. This is the same with conferences.


Always be upfront with the parents. if the student is struggling academically or if behavior is affecting their learning, it's okay to share this information. These types of conversations can be positive as well!


If there is an academic issue, explain what you are doing to improve their child's progress. You can also offer ideas for the parents to help, too. This is a great opportunity to invite them to be your partner in their child's education.


  • “Johanna is struggling with multiplication and division as you can see from her test scores. I've been meeting with her in the morning, along with a few other students, who need extra math support. We also use several math websites in our classroom for extra practice. Let me share a list of them with you so she can log in at home too!"


In this way, you give parents the appropriate information (which may be negative) without making them feel as if their child is a problem.


Using a Parent-Teacher Conference Form to gather your thoughts and data before the meeting makes these types of conversations easier.



TIP #3 - Treat Parents As Partners

You spend a large portion of the day with your students. It's almost as if you're co-parenting. This means teachers and parents need to treat each other with respect and try to develop a positive relationship.


parent shaking hands with teacher at parent-teacher conference

Making sure parents feel like partners in their child's education is essential. You need them! You need them to reinforce skills the student learn during the school day. You need them to help the student with skills he or she may be struggling with. You need them to have your back if and when a difficult situation arises. The parent-teacher conference is the perfect opportunity to build this kind of strong relationship. Here are some ways you can do that:

  • Ask the parents if they have any areas of concern or hopes for their child. Parents often see a different side of the student at home. They have known their child way longer than you and probably have some things to share that you aren't aware of.


  • Ask the parents for advice - don't just give it. All teachers need help sometimes and it’s okay to ask the parent for it. If there are specific concerns to be addressed, invite the parent to help develop an action plan. This makes for a very productive conference.


  • Always thank the parents for being supportive - even if you don't see eye to eye. Parents are trying to support their child the best they know how. You may not agree with their decisions or the comments they make. They may not agree with the decisions you've made or the information you share. But you need to remember, they are advocating for their child. Thank them for that!

​After the Conference

At the end of the conference, be sure to give parents your contact information in case they have any follow-up questions. I prefer to provide my email address because I like to have a written record of any parent contact. I have found that giving out my phone number often results in phone calls during the school day that I can't take. Always send home a copy of your meeting notes. This will refresh the parent's memory of what you talked about and remind them of any suggestions you might have provided. Finally, invite them to a follow-up meeting if it's needed. If you are monitoring a student's progress in response to interventions, it's critical that you keep the parents informed. There shouldn't be any ugly surprises when report cards come out. Consider posting your conference schedule on your website or including it in your classroom newsletter. If parents know ahead of time when you'll be holding meetings, they will be more likely to show up.


I use an online meeting scheduler with time slots that they can sign up for themselves. It makes scheduling conferences much easier! One I really like is SignUpGenius but it does have a small monthly fee. For a totally free option, you can try out SignUp.com.



online sign up form for parent teacher conferences

Meeting with parents for the first time can seem scary. But if you are prepared and use these parent teacher conference tips for teachers, it can be a very positive experience!

 

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