Parent-teacher conferences, happening soon in schools everywhere, are certainly a stressful time of year for teachers. It’s never easy to prepare for so many meetings and converse with so many parents in such a short period of time, but with some forethought and preparation, they can be successful and meaningful. Here are some ways to stay organized and on target during these conferences.
Prepare Your Material
Bring data to your conference. Create a conference sheet that works for you. I focus on the core subjects, math and ELA, for my grade 5 conferences. On this sheet, I list marking period grades, district standardized test scores, and Lexile ranges. For each subject, I create subcategories of the skills we have covered to that point in the year. For example, in math, I will list skills such as place value, addition and subtraction of decimals, multiplication, and division, and evaluate the progress as either above grade level, at grade level, or below grade level. These progress indicators are determined by topic test grades, as well as other assessments relating to that skill. Providing pieces of evidence (student work samples) are important to share with parents as well.
Additionally, I evaluate work habits, behavior, and social skills on the parent-teacher conference form. I also notate any talking points I want to make sure to bring up with the parents in a comments section. Additionally, I take notes on the sheet under “Parent Comments” with any concerns, issues, or thoughts parents share during the conference, which can help me to better tailor my teaching throughout the rest of the year.
Create a Welcoming Environment
Having a warm, welcoming classroom environment is important to support learning. On your conference sign-in table, put some mints, water bottles, and an informational packet. You can include some different ways parents can help continue what is happening in the classroom happen at home. Hanging student work samples around the room is just one of the ways to do this. It is exciting for students to see their work on the walls, and it is a point of pride for parents. Seeing student work displayed and keeping the classroom comfortable makes it feel like “home.”
Growth and Development Plan
Using the data, observations, and parent comments can help to form a plan that will help the student grow and develop throughout the year. It is important to sit with the student and go over goals and how to achieve the goals. The growth and development plan should be created by all stakeholders, including the teachers, students, and parents. There should be academic, as well as social/emotional, goals set in place for the students, and a plan for how to achieve these goals. Checking these goals periodically throughout the year is important to maintain the validity of the goals set in place.
Parent-teacher conferences can be stressful for teachers, but on the other hand, can be a positive experience. Having parents “in the loop” with what is going on in your classroom is so important, and so is having their support. Being prepared for the conferences is the best way to have a good experience. You may not have all the answers, but that is OK, and you can always let parents know you will get back to them when you have an answer. Parents want to see that you care and that you are knowledgeable about their child, as well as have the best interest of the child at heart.