Parent Teacher Conference

A parent teacher conference can be one of the more intimidating (especially for new and inexperienced teachers) yet more informative times for a teacher during the school year.

How do you handle it professionally and effectively and not be intimidated or stressed out? Read on and I'll tell you...

Keep in mind that parents may be just as nervous as you are, so one of your first objectives is to make them feel comfortable. Know that since each one of your students is different and unique, your interviews will follow suit.

Parents and teachers typically meet(officially) three times during the school year:

* The 1st meeting at the start of the school year (usually September) at the "Meet the Teacher" or "School Open House" or "Curriculum" night.

* The 2nd and 3rd meetings take place after students receive their report cards (usually December and March).

Of course a parent teacher conference may be required one or more times during the school year with a particular student's parents to discuss concerns such as marks dropping, student misbehavior, student assessment (e.g. psychological,IEP, etc.) or at the parents request for a meeting.

Meet the Teacher - The First Meeting

The first meeting, usually in September is more of a "meet and greet". You may have(depending upon the school and principal) a little introduction talk when the parents arrive. Circulate and make sure you speak to each parent. By then you should:

* Be quite familiar with your students.

* Be able to discuss the start of the year - your expectations of the students.

* Have (at least) the 1st term report card expectations up on a wall for parents to be aware of.

* Have the students' work (art and written) up on walls or bulletin boards.

* Have the students' notebooks and text books on their desks.

* Have your name and schedule on the blackboard (or whiteboard) indicating which subjects students are involved in and when.

Inevitably parents will ask "How is my child" doing?". Explain (with a smile and diplomacy) that this is not an interview and the time is not right.

But most will insist, so knowing the student (as best as you can at this early stage), give them something (positive comments, especially if the student is standing right there).

If parents are pushy, book (again with a smile) a different time, then and there for a private parent teacher conference (face to face or by phone). Nine times out of ten parents will say that it's not necessary.

Parent Teacher Conference - The Second Meeting

For the second meeting in December, you must see every parent after they have received their child's report card.

A few things to keep in mind:

1. If your students have siblings in the school, arrange interview times with the sibling's teachers, so that parents interview times run consecutively.

2. Depending on the cultural background of your students, you may need an interpreter (e.g. a relative of the student who speaks English or have the office administrator/secretary cal one for you).

3. Students may want to be included in the conference - why not? - after all, we are talking about them (but maybe not for the whole time).

4. If you want the student to be assessed,example for gifted or psychological reasons, this second conference would be a great opportunity to discuss the reasoning and process of it.

At the parent teacher conference:

* Greet parents with their surname, a smile, a firm handshake, eye contact is crucial.

* Do not sit at your desk across from the parents (too authoritative). Sit at a table or desks (with comfortable chairs) at the same level. Have chairs in the hall for parents waiting to see you.

* Be prepared and organized - by then you should know your students extremely well.

* Have a copy of the report card with you plus any documentation you think they'll need - e.g. monthly reports, behavioral logs, tests (that have been signed by the parents), examples of grade level standards (for child comparison).

* Start the parent teacher conference by saying "Do you have any questions or comments about the report card?", and then go from there.

* Be professional, personable, confident, and also be compassionate! Always keep in mind that you the teacher and the parents are working as a partnership aiming for the same ultimate goal - to have your student, their child, do the best they can - to reach their full potential by the end of the year!

* Be on time - most interviews last 15-20 minutes - you don't want to start off on the wrong foot by keeping parents waiting and having to rush through the meeting.

* End by shaking hands, smiling and some small talk - e.g. "I wish you and your family a very healthy and happy holiday and new year."

* Also always end on a positive note - e.g. " Between us communication together, we will be able to ...."

Parent Teacher Conference - The Third Meeting

After the second set of report cards have been sent home, typically at the end of March, follow the same parent teacher strategies as in the second meeting. You usually need to see only the parents of students who did not do well, or have continued behavioral problems or parents requesting an interview.

Parent Teacher Conference - Some DON'Ts


* Begin by focusing on the student's problems.
* Compare one student to another.
* Argue with a parent or blame them.
* Focus on family problems.
* Speak negatively about other teachers, the school or the principal.

Want some additional Parent Teacher Conference Ideas?

Watch my video as I discuss how to hold effective parent teacher conferences . This discussion took place at a teaching workshop for student teachers that is held every year at York University in Toronto.

Also be sure to read more of my tips on preparing for conferences with parents .

Have you ever heard of "Kid burn out"? Well it does exist. Then and there you realize why some students act the way they do. You realize that you have to treat the parents with "kid gloves" and use a lot of diplomacy!

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