1. It is important to look at the parent-teacher conferences from the parents’ point of view. If you are a parent yourself with school-age children, what have been your experiences with parent-teacher conferences? If you are not a parent, maybe you can find friends or relatives who are parents with school-aged children and ask them about how they feel in a parent-teacher conference. What were they expecting? What did they experience? What would they like to be done differently by teachers?
2. Collaborate with the PTSA to get parent and student input about what families expect, like, and want during parent teacher conferences. What changes would they like to see?
3. Help educate parents about parent-teacher conferences. For example, you can share the following articles with them:
Conversely, you can send a note home that contains some information about the importance of parent-teacher conferences and provides suggestions of how parents can prepare for them. For example, the following are some questions parents may want to ask during their child’s conference.
i. “Does she finish what she starts?”
ii. “Does he share?”
iii. “Can he follow directions?”
iv. “What are his strengths?”
v. “Whom does she play with?”
vi. “How does my child work and play?”
vii. “Does she raise her hand and express ideas?”
Answers to each of the questions can provide useful information about the child’s performance in the context of school. Parents should also be invited to apply any other questions they might have
4. Role play to emphasize parent perspectives. Let’s apply what you have learned in an active and interactive way. Get together with a classmate or colleague and role-play a dialogue between a teacher and a parent at a parent-teacher conference:
a. Decide who is going to play each part (it would be best if you both were able to take a turn being the “parent”)
b. Talk in general about the “student” you will be discussing: grade level, personality, family situation, academic performance, discipline, etc.
c. Individually take a few minutes and decide the content of what you would like to say
d. If you are playing the role of a teacher, write down what you would like to talk about and how you are going to say it
e. If you’re playing the part of the parent, think about what you would like to ask and how you will participate in the discussion,
f. When you are both ready, role-play the dialog (it would be best if you can do this in front of your peers)
g. After the role-play, take notes on the content of the exchange, the verbal and non-verbal (body) language, and how each participant seemed to be feeling. (if you are part of an education class and have role-played this exchange in front of your peers, have your classmates take notes)
h. Share your notes and reflect upon them: what did you learn about what this situation and experience might mean for parents? How can you use that information to shape your future PT conferences?