How you prepare for a Parent-Teacher Conference can set the stage for a very productive meeting or a very disorganized and unproductive experience. A parent-teacher conference is an excellent opportunity to express your needs as the classroom teacher so you can better meet your students’ needs and it is also a great moment to receive insight on the students’ strengths and areas of improvement. More importantly, it is an opportunity to create a collaborative bond between school and home.
The following video provides some feedback on the Parent-Teacher Conference (as shown in Part I) and also provides some helpful guidelines to consider when preparing for a PT conference.
. Take 5-10 minutes and make a list of everything you need to get ready to have an effective meeting.
2. Look at your list and compare it with the list provided below.
a. Consultation with parents: Send a brief survey home to learn about what are the best days and times for parents/family members to meet with you.
b. Parent/family letter: Write a letter to parents/families to inform them of the upcoming parent-teacher conference. Tell them the purpose and importance of such a conference. Provide them choices for the date and time depending on their availability. Have them check their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choices for date/time, sign it, and return to you. Give parents a phone number where they can reach you in case of last minute changes and ask families for a number in case you need to make any last minute changes to your appointment.
c. Language needs: Find out if any of your students’ parents/family members require an interpreter and make the necessary arrangements.
d. Confirmation letter: After scheduling conferences with all the parents/families, send a follow up letter confirming the date and time of the meeting. This can also be used as a reminder notice.
e. Get the room ready: Clean and organize the classroom. Gather portfolios, report cards, and any other resources that will facilitate the conference so they are readily available. Prepare an area of the classroom where you can sit comfortably with all your artifacts where there is ample room for the parents/family members to sit. Try to find a quiet, comfortable area in the classroom. Set up a few activities in case parents come with younger children (picture books, coloring, blocks, etc.).
f. Intro/overview note: Prepare the main issues you are planning on talking about for each of your students and then include those as items in a note to the respective parents. Doing this will encourage you to be well organized ahead of time and will help parents/family members know what to expect in the conference. This might include items such as: overview of the grade’s expectations regarding performance, behavior, and homework; summary of students’ characteristics and outcomes during the semester; information from parents about the child’s learning strengths and weaknesses, a plan of action, and time for Q&A.
g. Learning expectations: Share with the parents the class rules and expectations regarding participation, behavior, and, most importantly, learning. Refer to standards and benchmarks, and make sure you use accessible language.
h. Learning samples: Prepare a portfolio of each student’s work throughout the semester that is representative of the various subjects covered in your class and that clearly demonstrate the grade’s curricular goals. The teacher and the students should select student work samples together.
i. Class performance bar graphs: Use visual bar graphs to show each student’s learning progress compared with others and with expectations/benchmarks. At a minimum, you should have graphs for key areas in Language and Math. Make sure NO names are displayed. The point is for parents to learn how their children are doing compared to the benchmarks and to the class, not to compare individual students. Samples of exemplary work (without names or identifiable information) to show to parents might also help them understand what you are striving for in the class. Remember that the goal is to help parents understand what is expected and what they can do to help their child perform better at school (ALL students have room for improvement).
j. Summarize your main points: Start by noting all the positive aspects you see in the child as a person and as a learner. Share anecdotes and work samples that convey to the parents how much you enjoy having their child in your class. Discuss what the student is doing well and then point out areas of improvement or any concerns. The main focus should be on performance, but this is also a good opportunity to talk with parents about discipline, homework, absences, and other areas that affect student performance. Ask parents for their input and suggestions about how to address these issues and remember to communicate your needs as a classroom teacher in a positive and constructive way.
k. Teacherese: Consider how to talk with parents. Think about how to modify your language to make it more accessible to parents. You can audiotape yourself and/or revise your notes to check how much jargon, educational terminology, and inaccessible language you tend to use. Highlight also the strategies you use to make the information accessible! For example, did you paraphrase, use visuals, present student work or utilize any other strategies to make the conversation concrete and accessible to parents?
l. Learning resources: Considering the needs of each of your students, prepare some resources you can send home with the parent(s) at the end of the conference. This is your chance to communicate and get support from the home as well as empower the parent(s) to be involved and to be an asset in the learning system from home.
3. Of the list above, which items have you done? Which ones do you feel comfortable doing? Are there any items you have not tried before that you would like to try in your next conference? [Note: if you are student-teaching it is very important that you first observe your mentor teacher during the PT conference and that you help that person prepare and conduct the conference before attempting to lead one yourself.]
4. If you have the opportunity to conduct your own conference or to observe a teacher in action, think about what worked, what you could do differently to improve the experience for all participants, and how the event met its goals of informing parents about their child’s performance, giving you additional information to help children improve their learning, and setting up a good partnership with parents and families.