Parent Teacher Conferences: A Survival Guide
Talking to parents about their child can be one of many struggles. Some parents believe their kid can do no wrong, it’s always the teacher’s fault, and the teacher is out to get their baby. Other struggles are just in getting parents to answer the phone or show up to conferences. At both districts I have been in, the district gave teachers the option to meet parents after school from 4-7 PM on a Tuesday and Thursday in exchange for taking the teacher in-service days off before Thanksgiving. That makes for two very long nights of back to back meetings. In my experience, I have been through parent teacher conferences at both the elementary and middle school level. From this, I have compiled a list that a teacher of any age group can use to survive meeting after meeting.
1. Schedule. Build a schedule for the days you will be meeting with the parents. Send a note home with students explaining the upcoming parent teacher conferences and asking them to pick their top three choices for meeting days and times. As the notes come in, start filling in your schedules. I have found it best to write in pencil so you can move people around when later notes come in. Once you have the majority of parents scheduled, send out confirmation days and times to each student. I have printed these on slips of paper with a place for the parents to initial.
2. Collect your materials. I have found it very useful to have a plan for what needs to be discussed and samples of student work and progress for the parents to see evidence of what you are telling them. Here is a list of items I have had on hand for a conference:
• Conference Form
• Conference Notes for Parent- I prepare these ahead of time or make a copy of my conference form to send home the next day.
• Report Cards and Progress Reports- shows progress, strengths, struggles, and behavior throughout the year
• Notebooks/ Journals- shows work throughout the year
• Graded Tests- shows actual summative assessments of the student
• Any Special Testing or Reports for the Student
• Classroom Behavior Log- only if you can see one student’s behavior at a time
3. Snacks/ Dinner. I always kept something easy to eat quickly because dinner wasn’t scheduled in and I get hungry! If a parent misses their meeting, you can have a quick dinner.
4. Principal. In the case that you may be giving difficult information or just talking with a difficult parent, go ahead and alert the principal of the time and day of this meeting so they can be present or close by. I have had to have my principal come in due to screaming, angry parents before.