It’s almost that time…. Parent-teacher conferences! Cue the stress and anxiety. But wait… it doesn’t have to be stressful! Below you’ll read 10 must know tips to help you totally rock EVERY SINGLE conference.
Prep ALL the Things
Tip number one is one to help keep things running smoothly. Make sure you have everything printed, copied, organized, and in order so when parents come in, you know exactly what you want to discuss and cover during your time together. Some things to think about having prepped are forms you’ve previously filled out with things their child is doing well in academically, behaviorally, and socially, data to share from classroom and district assessments, goal setting sheets, and some student work to show off. Other things that help parents feel more connected to their learning process are handouts on how to help support learning at home, things we’re working on in class, upcoming events and skills we’ll encounter in the future few weeks, and book lists with fun reading ideas to encourage families to read as much as possible.
Remember what YOU want out of this conference as well. You want your parents to work with you. They are your FRIEND and together you both want their child to succeed. No matter what you’ve heard, always have a positive mindset when working with them. Ask yourself what you’d like to communicate to them and what outcome you would like to have when they leave the conference. If you need assistance from them with a problem in the classroom, offer solutions you’ve tried while asking if they see the same behavior at home and if they have ideas on how to solve it. Prep in a way where each of you leave the conference feeling productive and with a plan of action moving forward. You can grab THIS conference bundle to help support all your needs!
Create a WELCOMING Environment
The vibes you create when your parents walk through the door can help or hinder the future relationship with them. When I think about setting up for a conference, I like to focus on creating a relaxing, stress free environment. I make sure the room is very clean, things are organized, and it feels cozy inside. Tons of student work should be displayed to show off all the fun learning we’ve done during our time together. You want parents to feel proud of their child when they walk into the room, as well as at ease. I might have low calming music playing, sprayed a fresh linen aroma, and placed out some sort of individually wrapped snack and some water. I want to make it feel good to be there.
Another big tip for the conference is to make sure I’m sitting next to parents, rather than across from them behind a desk. This creates a much more connected feeling and shows that you are there to work with them. I also remind myself to be mindful of my non verbal communication, as we know that can come off the wrong way at times. Just remember to stay positive, know that you’re there to work together, and make them feel just as welcomed in the class as the students!
Make Space for Their Thoughts
Remember that this is a parent teacher conference, with us educators only being half of the party. In my opinion, it is important to carve out time for parents to speak because they are the biggest piece in facilitating student’s growth. Allow them space to give their thoughts on their child’s growth, strengths, weaknesses, and goals they may have for them. Learn more about your student by listening to their parent’s talk about their kid. Pay attention to what lights them up at home and how things are handled with parents so you all can stay consistent and aligned.
Start with the POSITIVE
This may seem like a no-brainer, but sometimes we may get caught up with all the things we need to improve on and want to dive right into that. Remember to ALWAYS start with the positive things and know that you can never have too many. Tell a story about their child or show a specific piece of work that you were proud of that they produced. Make sure the parents FEEL that positivity and love for their child. There’s always something positive about a kid. It’s our job to find and showcase it. All of these things will show how much you care and also builds trust. That connection and trust allows parents to keep an open and positive mind when it comes to navigating the harder conversations.
Involve the Students
Tip five is a serious way to relieve stress- have the students run the conference! You can implement a student-led conference model that benefits everyone involved. It’s a bit more effort upfront, but the benefits are totally worth it! With this model, students and teachers prepare for the conference together. This helps students have a deeper understanding of their progress, their strengths and weaknesses, and how their behavior in the classroom affects their growth. For the conference, allow students to lead the conference while you are there to support. Parents tend to be more open to reflect on their child’s progress when listening to them lead and it can help them gain a better understanding on how to help at home.
If you’d like to stick to a more traditional route with you leading, you can still involve students in other ways. Prior to conferences, you can have students write a piece to share during the conference. You can do surveys that students can fill out to give parents a look into the things they enjoy about their class and how they feel they’ve grown. Simply put, be creative! Do what works for you and your students and know that any involvement will be appreciated by your parents. Check this fun Grow and Glow FREEBIE that students can fill out!
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DON’T Surprise Families
Parents should know what is going on with their child long before the conference time. They should be informed on assessment data and progress in the classroom throughout the weeks. DO NOT wait until conference time to drop a bomb on them. There are so many ways to keep in contact with families, whether it be through email, phone, or an app such as Class Dojo, ClassTag, or Remind. Let the conference be a time where you come together after having many interactions already.
Take Care of YOU
If you can’t do this alone, don’t! Take care of you and grab your support! You can call on whoever you need to sit in with specific conferences if you need, such as a SPED teacher, interventionist, etc. Do whatever you have to do to make sure you feel good about communicating with families on how to support students and their needs.
Leave Time for Questions
Just as we carved out time for parents to voice their thoughts, there should be time set out solely for their questions to be answered. Help them feel at ease by opening up the floor to ask any and everything they can in the allotted time. Be precise when giving answers and if you don’t have the answer at the moment, let them know you’ll get back to them in a timely fashion. You can also have a question card to give them to fill out later if they can’t think of anything on the spot. Another option includes sending parents the questions card prior so they can have their questions already prepped!
Set Goals TOGETHER
This is an important piece of achieving the goals that are set. When everyone is involved, we can work together in reaching them. We can be clear about the support we need and make sure there are many opportunities for practice. Involving parents AND students in setting goals keeps them connected and gives them more accountability since everyone had a say in setting it. Remember to keep goals attainable, yet challenging enough to grow. Make sure it is clear and specific. You can also work together to talk about incentives and rewards for meeting them. A good acronym for setting goals is making sure they are SMART- Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely.
Keep in Touch
Conferences should not be the only time you converse and touch base with parents. Keep in touch as much as you can in between formal conferences so that you have several opportunities to build your relationships and stay up to date with happenings at home. This helps your relationship with your students, as well as getting you support to help them thrive. Remember, parents should be friends not strangers! Figure out a way to get and keep them involved. Keep in touch about the goals you’ve set and talk about how their child is doing to reach them and/or what they can do to help at home. You can use apps such as Class Dojo to keep parents informed about any and everything that goes on in the classroom!
I really hope you enjoyed learning 10 must know tips to rock your parent teacher conferences! Dash over to my store and grab the conference bundle to help support ALL your needs. Don’t forget to subscribe to my email list! Not only will you get the most up to date tips, tricks, and classroom projects… and of course more fun FREEBIES including the Grow and Glow FREEBIE! You will also have exclusive access to tons of digital how-to videos! If you would like to learn about this and other things happening in my classroom follow me @sweetnsauerfirsties on Instagram.
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