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Can we talk about Parent-Teacher Conferences?
It’s a stressful time to be a teacher. And, it’s a stressful time to be a parent. It’s parent-teacher conference time!
After 20 years of teaching and 20 years of parenting my own school-age children, I’ve sat though my share of parent-teacher conferences. Teachers and parents who create a united team can make the greatest impacts for children. These are a few of my tried and true my tips, insights, and parent-teacher conference resources.
Tips for Teachers
- Let parents know that you truly KNOW and SEE their kid as a human beyond academics. We all adore our children and feel validated when teachers recognize their strengths, humor, wit, and character. Start a conference with a funny story or anecdote about how this child makes your class better.
- Celebrate strengths first. Every child excels at something. Document and begin with academic and social celebrations.
- Be honest. This is the time to show data and communicate concerns or opportunities for growth. Most parents want to know where their child stands and how they can help. Communicate this using growth mindset language and goals. “Katie hasn’t yet reached the 3rd grade reading benchmark. Let me explain where she is and what we can do to help her get there.”
- Share 1-2 manageable, realistic things that parents can do to help at home. Most parents are not trained in the science of reading or conceptual math. But, most parents do want to help their child do well in school. Parents are more likely to follow through when they have one or two clear, manageable tasks with an end date. Asking parents to provide additional home support and practice for penmanship, math facts, nightly reading, homework completion, and all of the other things is just defeating. Kids who are academically struggling often come home mentally exhausted and don’t benefit from hours of additional work anyway. Instead, give one or two targeted skills to practice and be specific about what this entails. “I would love if you would listen to Taylor read his fluency passage orally each night. These passages reinforce the phonics pattern we are learning, and rereading will help him be more accurate and fluent.” In 6 weeks, I’d love to email you and share the growth he’s made in accuracy and fluency.
- End the conference on a positive note. Giving a piece of amazing work or a picture that captures their child is a great way to ensure the conference ends with celebration and brings it back to the child instead of the scores.
- Ask questions and give plenty of time for the parents to talk. You should be learning as much from them as they are learning from you!
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Tips for Parents
- Unless you have been a teacher, you have no idea how difficult this job can be. Your child’s teacher is juggling the needs of 25 small (or hormonal) humans for 7 hours a day. Enter the conference with appreciation and grace. A small gift or note of appreciation from you and your child can set the tone for a positive and productive conference.
- Before attending the conference, ask your child how they feel the school year is going and if there is anything they would like you to talk to the teacher about. Remember, your child should feel like you are teaming with their teacher.
- Understand that it is the teacher’s objective to share honest data, celebrations, and concerns with you. No one’s child is perfect, and this is a great time to learn about ways you can help your child grow as a socially, academically, and personally. Try not to be offended or defensive. We are all on the same team. If goals are not given, ask for them! How can you help at home? How can you reinforce school expectations?
- Your child has a right to an amazing education. You have a right to know and understand your child’s educational experience. If your child is struggling, ask questions, get specifics, and plan to check in with the teacher often.
- If you suspect or are told your child has a reading deficit or disability, print 7 Tips For Parents: Take Action When Your Child is Struggling With Reading and use it as a launch pad for the conference.
We hope you have amazing parent-teacher conferences this fall. Share the tips and tricks you have for successful conferneces in the comments below.