Going into a meeting with a parent can be intimidating for teachers, but with enough practice and preparation ahead of time, there is nothing you should be worried about. The point of a parent teacher conferences is for parents and teachers to get on the same page and develop a plan for student success. You know how their child is performing in school more than they do, so feel enabled to share exactly what you see.
Communication is key for student achievement. If you aren’t calling for a parent teacher conference until the 4th marking period but the student has been failing since the beginning of the school year, it’s not going to be a smooth meeting. Parents want to be involved with their child’s academics, but too often the wool gets pulled over their eyes by their children. Make the first move to call or email parents when you notice a student on a downhill spiral. Don’t wait until it’s too late for them to improve because that can fall back on you.
2. Be Positive
If you are the one requesting the meeting, don’t call the parent and immediately start listing off their child’s shortcomings. Ask that they come in to discuss strategies for so-and-so’s success. This also goes for the actual meeting. Instead of instantly telling the parents all of the not so nice things that are happening with their child, start with a compliment. Tell them something positive that their student is doing, even if it’s small. Such as:
- She always raises her hand when she has something to say
- He has a great sense of humor
- She’s very kind and helps others
- He stays after class to help put up the chairs
- Her taste in music is awesome
- He never gives up even when he’s struggling
Complimenting the child shows that you see more than just the grade they have in your class.
3. Be Prepared
Don’t show up the the conference empty handed. Have the child’s grades from the year, a list of assignments they didn’t complete, or notes of their behavior with specific examples. Being able to show parents evidence of what you are saying helps because quite often they are being told something different from their child. Instead of saying, “Billy is often rude and disrespectful”, tell them of a particular incident. Or, instead of telling them that their child does poorly on tests and quizzes, have the grades to show and copies of those tests.
You must also be prepared for whatever the parents or guardians bring to the table. They may be the sweetest people you have ever met, but they also may not. Usually after the parent teacher conference ends you have an aha moment. Just stay professional and remember that the problems you have with the student may stem from their parents.
4. Invite the Student
At the elementary level this might not be as feasible, but in high school I think it’s important for students to take responsibility for themselves and not be passive in their own education. It’s also helpful for the teacher and parents to have the person that they are talking about be there to give reason for their behaviors. Having the student be part of the conversation also reinforces the idea that the teachers and parents want what’s best for him/her. We want it enough to have a meeting about it and strategize together for them to achieve success.
5. Make Allies
The whole point of a parent teacher conference is to form an alliance. No matter how things go, at the end of the meeting be sure to get their contact information. Follow up with them about how their child is performing since the meeting, and let them know if they fall behind. It can be a hassle, I know, but the parents will appreciate it and that allied front will shine through to your student.
Read our previous blog post discussing When to Reorganize your Classroom here
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