Is it just me or do when you see parent teacher conferences scheduled on the calendar your stomach drops a little bit? They can be a really overwhelming and stressful time of the year. Let’s face it, between working 12 hour days, prepping for 25+ individual conferences, and talking nonstop for 20 minutes back to back to back on those days, it’s A LOT. But don’t worry! I’m here to make this time of the year less stressful and more fun. So sit back and get ready for 5 easy tips that will help make conferences a BREEZE for you, while also giving your families a memorable experience.
Prep ALL the Things
When I say all the things, I mean ALL the things. 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.
I like to use a folder for each student to organize all of their important documents to share with families. I also like to send home THESE forms in advance to give families space for things THEY want to discuss in the conference. It’s a lot of prep up front but makes the actual conference much easier because we are all on the same page and they feel valued and heard. Assemble them yourself OR have students get involved!
Example Student Led Conference Folder
Check out THESE easy to use folders and some of the things I put inside them. These are also folders that can be kept all year and shared again during spring conferences!
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 individually wrapped snacks and water. I want to make it feel good to be there. This is a great way to start on a positive note with families. Get up and shake their hand and greet them. Thank them for coming and let them know that they are your biggest partners in their child’s journey. It’s these little things that can help shift mindsets and help everyone feel more welcome, comfortable and involved.
Keep it Positive
Have you heard of the positive sandwich? I like to use this analogy because it makes the tougher parts of the conference easier to digest. It’s just a sweet way to remember to stack on a piece of positivity with any feedback that may be seen as a negative. It’s nice to start off on the right foot by sharing something that is going well and easing families into something that is a challenge for their child. If all they hear is negative, they might not listen or feel successful. It’s important to always stay focused on the positive and HELP parents help their child. Using this positive sandwich analogy goes perfect with these Glow and Grows feedback conference sheets. They are a wonderful way to share information with families in a productive way. Check out the easy to use sheet below that you can grab FREE by subscribing!
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Something else that can help keep the vibes encouraging is to make sure you’re 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. Be mindful of body language and non verbal communication, as we know that can come off the wrong way at times. Just remember that you’re there to work together and make them feel just as welcomed in the class as the students!
Here’s an important reminder just for you that can be a game changer for your own mindset. Even if parents are negative, don’t take it personally and always maintain a professional demeanor. Don’t be afraid to have someone there with you if you know parents are walking in with something big that is bothering them. Whether it’s a coach, SPED partner, or principal, you don’t have to take on that big responsibility alone. 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 an open and 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. Work together and the school year will run smoother!
Make Follow Up Easy for Families
After conferences, families can leave feeling overwhelmed and stuck. Especially if in 20 minutes they have shown tons of assessments, data they don’t understand, student work, and handouts. They too may have gotten off of work late and might now feel burdened by their own ‘homework’ from the conference. In order to make this experience easier for them, share a few helpful, SIMPLE ideas that they can do at home. Make a list with a few strategies and walk them through it before sending it home with them.
One go-to activity for any family is to encourage reading every night with their children. It’s a great bonding activity that doesn’t take a lot of time, and it has HUGE benefits for students. I always tell parents, if you aren’t doing ANYTHING else with your child at home, just make sure you read with them. It often makes them feel good and know that they will be successful because that is something they CAN do.
Keep Lines of Communication Open
After conferences are over, there can still be questions or concerns. Leave those lines of communication open with families so they know that you are there to support them and their child. Be sure to 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.
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! The biggest thing with families is not to surprise them. If there’s an issue, don’t wait until conferences to bring it up with them. They are going to feel blindsided and not included. Conferences should be a time to discuss the positive things happening, clarify, and make new goals to help their child thrive.
If you stick to those tips, everyone will feel successful after conferences and not overwhelmed or burdened. I really hope you enjoyed learning 5 easy tips for successful parent teacher conferences! I’m here to help make conferences a BREEZE with the jam packed parent teacher conference bundle. Check out these easy to use editable forms to help alleviate stress for YOU and help families understand that conferences can be a great experience. Learn 10 more parent teacher conference tips HERE!
Check out what teachers are saying below!
“Being a first year teacher, this resource for parent teacher conferences was a breeze to use and customize to my needs! Can’t wait to have this prepared for the next one!”
“I loved this resource and so did my parents. I loved that I got to sit with my students and talk with them and then the parents were able to see what they said. I loved that I could also have the parents write about their kids and share with them. I feel like sometimes we forget to have these times with our kids. They all loved the popcorn and this really helped organize my conferences.”
“I am so thankful for this product! Parent teacher conferences are incredibly stressful regardless of the behavior of your students (for me anyway). They fall right after grades are due and RIMPS need to be completed and with 26 students it is a lot of prep, but this resource made it so much easier.”
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