Parent-Teacher conferences are a special dance unto themselves. Successful conferences come about as a result of intentional choreography, sufficient preparation, and the ability to express oneself freely and gracefully.
In an effort to support positive and effective conferences in the coming weeks, I asked teachers for advice to share with parents. “Be open and honest about what you have read,” offered Second Grade Teacher Ronnie Loving. “Remember that the teacher likes your child and is painting a picture about what they see at school in order to help everyone be on the same page.”
Perhaps the most important ingredient for success is making sure you read the entire progress report before the conference and come prepared. Nothing is more frustrating for teachers than to spend time and energy crafting a well-written and honest report card that goes unread.
Fifth Grade teacher Stephanie Karian had some great advice as well. “Read the report carefully and come with strong questions that will make for a productive conversation,” Ms. Karian suggests. “Try to focus on your child’s ‘personal best,’ instead of asking questions such as, ‘How does my child compare with others in their class?’"
Other teacher pointers included practical suggestions such as, “Bring something to write with,” and “Arrive on time.” Related to time, parents are also asked to respect the end time of their conference as other parents are waiting for theirs to begin. One teacher added a caution about raising an important issue at the very end of the conference. To avoid this, Ms. Loving suggests preparing three talking points beforehand, and prioritizing the list so the more important things get covered first.
In Middle School at All Saints, students are added to the conference dance, and in fact, are tasked with taking the lead. This is especially effective because students at this stage of development are very concerned with justice and enjoy the opportunity to both receive adult recognition (privately) and explain their feelings about school, grades, accomplishments, and challenges.
Parent-teacher conferences are an important component of the school-family partnership. Research demonstrates that family involvement in education can lead to positive benefits for children, such as strong academic performance and improved attitudes about school. Like all good conversations, parent teacher conferences are best when people both talk and listen, are open-minded and respectful. As we approach the upcoming conference schedule, we hope these tips will help enhance the benefits of this important dance.
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