Are you ready to have a successful parent teacher conference? Do you look forward to these opportunities to connect with parents? Most teachers I talk to do not like conferences. They say conferences are extra prep work and there is not enough time to prepare. I also hear teachers say they struggle with what to share or how to communicate student struggles. Is this you? It certainly used to be me!!
Now, when I first started teaching, I was nervous about the conferences and only shared positive information.
However, as I learned over the next several years, I realized that parent teacher conferences were just a continuation of ongoing communications.
Parents want to know not only the positives, but growth areas and how they can help their child at home.
Now I enjoy sitting down with parents to discuss their child’s strengths, growth areas, and options to help at home.
I especially love to see the child attend their conference.
After all, it’s all about the student!! Parent teacher conferences are actually one of my favorite events.
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In this blog post, I share strategies and tips for building a successful parent teacher relationship that result in effective conferences. I also focus on how to prepare for effective and successful parent teacher conferences with communication strategies and more to ensure you make the most of this essential engagement.
The Importance of Parent Teacher Conferences
Did you know maintaining open lines of communication between parents and teachers is paramount to a child’s academic progress and overall development? Did you know parent teacher conferences are also a vital aspect of a child’s educational journey?
My friends, this meeting offers a valuable opportunity for parents and teachers to collaborate in shaping a child’s academic and personal development. It’s that important!
Oftentimes, formal conferences are held at the end of a grading quarter when progress reports are shared.
It is important to know that effective and successful parent teacher conferences go beyond report cards.
These conferences provide a deeper understanding of a child’s progress, strengths, and areas for improvement.
This effectiveness is not achieved during two annual conferences, but throughout the year. Now you know!
Successful Parent Teacher Conferences Begin the First Month of School
Wait! What do you mean successful parent teacher conferences begin the first month of school? Yes, that’s right! How . . . you ask? Let’s discuss several relationship opportunities that are available during the first quarter.
From the moment you meet the parents or guardians, the relationship is building. Therefore, establishing a positive relationship is a key step for successful conferences throughout the year. Capitalizing on these opportunities will ensure you have successful parent teacher conferences all year.
Let me share some tips for a successful parent teacher conference by building a positive parent teacher relationship before school even starts.
Back-to-School Home Visits
Some schools will host a day before school starts where teachers visit their students’ home and community. I remember the first time I did this! I was a little nervous, since I didn’t know what to expect. However, I quickly realized this visit was a great experience for me! Later I found out, it was a positive experience for parents and students, too!
During the home visit, each teacher paired with a paraprofessional and visited families. Notice of these home visits were posted in advance, so families knew what to expect and when the teachers and staff would be stopping by their homes.
As we walked through the neighborhood, the kids were so much fun to see riding their bikes, playing outside, and coming over to welcome us to their home. They were just as excited about school starting as we were. Their excitement was certainly contagious!
My partner and I met with each family, shared information about the upcoming “Back-to-School” event, which often includes a small BBQ or ice cream social for families, and shared a “Welcome Back-to-School” goodie bag filled with spirit related items and community donated resources. While a few students were shy, most students smiled from ear to ear, excited to see us.
If you have never participated in a “Back-to-School” home visit, I encourage you to try it. This experience was a great opportunity to plant that first seed for a positive relationship with families and students.
Many schools host a “Back-to-School” event for students to meet their teacher prior to the first day of school. Parents typically bring school supplies and help their child get set up in the classroom. Students can see their learning space and reunite with some longtime friends. These events are an important part of developing a positive parent teacher relationship and ease everyone’s (and yes, you, too) anxieties about starting a new school year.
Creating a fun “Welcome to School” bulletin board where students and families get to know you is a great way to develop a relationship. Once the school year gets started, a great getting to know you activity focuses on students sharing learning about each other. Transitioning the bulletin board or adding student content is a great way to build your classroom community. This also showcases student learning for the Open House coming later in the quarter.
Positive Parent Phone Calls
Once school gets started, it is important to touch base with each of your students’ parents or guardians. During the initial two weeks of school, teachers are doing a lot of assessments, getting to know each other activities, and starting to dig into grade level content. While you are working with students in the classroom, parents are wondering how their child is doing transitioning into a new school year.
These phone calls are a great opportunity to contact the parents and share some great news about their child and what is going on during their child’s school day.
These phone calls often take 10-15 minutes, but are well worth the extra effort to connect.
I suggest making about five phone calls per day until you’ve reached all your families.
Now that school has been in session a couple of weeks, oftentimes schools will host an Open House event. This is an evening when families are invited to come into school and visit their child’s classroom, learn more about important events at the school, ask questions, and view bulletin boards that are filled with student learning.
Additionally, the Open House can include student presentations, a PTA meeting, “A Day in Your Child’s Day at School”, community resources, and even a BBQ, cookies, or other treats. These events are well attended, especially when food is present.
Formal Parent Teacher Conferences
Alright, are you utilizing some of the relationship building tips shared above? Besides the numerous emails, phone calls, newsletters, school events, classroom events, run-ins at the store where you continue to nourish the parent teacher relationship and conversations about the student’s progress, now it’s time to start thinking about the first successful parent teacher conference.
In my district, parent teacher conferences are held twice a year, once in the fall (quarter 2) and again in the spring (quarter 3).
IMPORTANT NOTE: Always remember, if there is a need for additional in person or phone contacts, it is imperative to hold conferences or even “touching base phone calls” as often as needed. Parents do not like to “think” everything is going great, only to find out there are problems during a conference.
The First Formal In-Person Conference
I like to meet with each family for an in-person conference. During this conference, I schedule 20-30 minutes and have several items ready to share.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If the parents speak a different language, I have resources and an interpreter available in the parent’s first language.
Prior to this conference, I send home a “Pre-Conference Questionnaire” for parents or guardians to complete. This is an important piece to preparing for a successful parent teacher conference. I review the comments, questions, and concerns on this document and ensure I have resources and answers available to share with parents at the conference.
Alright, as I’m sure you are aware, parent teacher conferences serve as a crucial bridge of communication between the two most influential factors in a child’s education—their parents and their teacher.
These conferences allow parents to gain insight into their child’s academic progress, behavior, and social interactions in the school environment.
Remember, you’ve been building a relationship since day one. This strong partnership between parents and teachers allows the formal conferences to contribute to a more holistic understanding of a child’s needs and abilities.
The Second Formal In-Person Conference
The second conference is a student-led conference. The students have been learning, reflecting, and working to meet grade level standards throughout the year. They have been presenting learning to their peers, to school learning buddies, and even at family events held throughout the year. Therefore, with lots of presenting practice under their belt, they are ready to take charge of the second conference.
Throughout the year, my students have been working on a portfolio. Part of the portfolio is digital and the other part are actual documents. The students take time to organize their work, practice presenting, and are ready to share their learning at this student-led conference.
The parents are always proud of the presentation and how much their child has grown in academics and confidence throughout the year. To ensure conference success, I am always available for student support and parent questions. This event is truly an opportunity for the student to showcase his/her learning and SHINE!!
Strategies for Successful Parent Teacher Conferences
Successful parent teacher conferences that promote collaboration and ongoing relationships include preparation, engagement, communication. These are essential elements to building a collaborative relationship that will last throughout the school year, and oftentimes for years to follow.
Preparing for Parent-Teacher Conferences
Effective preparation is key to making parent teacher conferences productive and insightful.
Throughout the quarter or semester, students have been demonstrating learning.
It’s time to gather and review relevant student data, assessments, and observations to have a clear understanding of the student’s progress and areas for discussion.
Typically, students take home completed work assignments, assessments, projects, and newsletters throughout the quarter or semester. This information is an opportunity for teachers, parents, and students to monitor progress. Parents should review their child’s recent assignments, assessments, and reports to identify areas where they may have questions or concerns. If there is a concern at any time, parents should reach out to their child’s teacher. Likewise, it is important for teachers to communicate student progress connecting with parents via phone, email, tech apps, or in person conversations.
Additionally, it’s helpful for teachers and parents to jot down specific questions or topics you’d like to discuss during the conference to ensure nothing important is overlooked. Gather and review relevant student data, assessments, and observations to have a clear understanding of the student’s progress and areas for discussion.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Don’t forget to review the conference questionnaire form and other communication when preparing for a successful conference.
Setting Goals for Parent-Teacher Conferences
Using the “Pre-Conference Questionnaire” as a guide coupled with other collected data and work samples, parents and teachers establish clear goals for what you hope to achieve during the parent teacher conference. Parents’ comments on the questionnaire ensure they are part of the conversation to help their child and teacher overcome specific challenges.
Although some topics may be challenging to discuss, it is paramount for teachers to ensure parents know exactly how their child is doing, what is being done to help their child be successful, and discuss any behavioral concerns.
Therefore, planning strategies for improvement and goal setting to support the student are essential.
Since I provide time for the student to reflect upon his/her learning, strengths, and growth areas, I also use this document to engage the parents and student (if present) in goal setting. These goals are created together and reviewed throughout the year and/or at the second conference.
During the conference, it is important to share areas the student is doing well and areas the student needs additional support. Parents want to know how their child is doing and what they can do to help their child be successful. Teachers should be ready to share specific ways parents can help their child at home.
Creating an Inviting and Welcoming Conference Environment
When you create your conference space, it is best to set up a comfortable and inviting space to ensure both parents and teachers feel at ease to engage in open dialogue.
This space can be accomplished by having a few snacks and drinks available, class authored books and bulletin boards showcasing student work, and a simple play activity, math manipulatives, or quiet game for siblings to use during the conference.
Parents appreciate this extra effort and help them feel comfortable. Don’t forget to provide a few chairs for parents to wait comfortably while reviewing materials.
Remember to always post the conference schedule near your conference space door and include parent handouts with a calendar and/or upcoming school event information. This may be a good place to post your reminder message about using a timer to ensure conferences are timely noting that an additional conference can be scheduled, if additional time is needed.
Effective Communication Strategies During Conferences
Effective communication is the cornerstone of successful parent teacher conferences. Since parents see their child in a different environment, it is important for you to listen attentively to the parent’s concerns. On the other hand, parents should listen attentively to teacher’s insights, ask clarifying questions, and express thoughts and concerns clearly and respectfully. Remember, open and honest dialogue is a two-way road and paves the way for fruitful collaboration.
Always begin the conference by discussing the student’s achievements and progress, highlighting their strengths and positive contributions to encourage a constructive conversation.
This positive focus allows for the growth areas to surface as a natural transition.
The conversation about needs can take place while establishing goals and resources to help the child at school and home.
Open communication, active listening, and a non-judgmental approach are essential for fostering a positive environment where concerns and ideas can be freely shared.
Maximizing Engagement with Parents During Conferences
Always remember engagement during parent-teacher conferences is a two-way street. Teachers should actively involve parents in the discussion, encourage their input, and seek their perspective on their child’s progress and development. This engagement fosters a sense of partnership and shared responsibility for the child’s success.
Oftentimes students are present at conferences. Encourage the student to share his/her perspectives, work assignments, and questions.
When sharing work samples, ask the student to share his/her learning.
Parents appreciate the opportunity to hear from their child and this conversation promotes additional learning conversations at home.
Addressing Sensitive Topics During Conferences
It’s important to approach sensitive topics with empathy and understanding. Both parents and teachers should focus on finding constructive solutions and ways to support the child rather than dwelling on the issue itself. Approach the conversation with an open mind, emphasizing the common goal of the child’s well-being and growth.
When conferences call for sensitive discussions and specific needs are addressed, invite additional school professionals to the conversation.
These educators could include the school’s principal, counselor, related service providers or special education teachers.
These conferences may require additional time; therefore, preschedule this time in advance, so the parents know to expect a longer conference.
Following Up After Parent Teacher Conferences
Alright my friend, now that the conferences are done, there are just a few more items to consider your successful parent teacher conferences are a grand slam!
1. Remember to take time to reflect on the discussion and act upon any action points that are identified. This may include additional conversations or resources to share.
2. Provide supplementary educational materials, reading suggestions, or online resources that can further support the child’s learning and development outside the classroom.
3. Implement agreed upon strategies and maintain communication with the parent and other teachers, as needed, to track progress.
4. Regular follow-ups ensure that the collaborative effort continues beyond the conference, benefiting the child.
5. Always maintain regular communication with parents to update them on their child’s progress and address any ongoing concerns.
6. Finally, sending a “Thank You” card to parents throughout the year for their work in the classroom, donating materials, or doing other actions to support education is a great opportunity to show appreciation and cultivate the relationship.
Resources and Tools for Successful Parent Teacher Conferences
WOW!! I hope you’ve been taking notes and are ready to implement the strategies and tips I’ve shared in this blog post. Check out the resources below for additional posts related to implementing successful parent teacher conferences and sustaining that positive family relationship you have been cultivating.
Final Thoughts: Successful Parent Teacher Conferences
Parent teacher conferences are a powerful tool in a child’s educational journey, providing a platform for collaboration, understanding, and growth. Using the tips and strategies for successful parent teacher conferences outlined in this post will certainly build positive and sustaining family relationships.
By recognizing the importance of conferences, how to preparing thoughtfully and early, and engaging in open and constructive communication, parents and teachers can work together to create a supportive environment conducive to the child’s success.