Tips for Parent Conferences
This article comes from TSTA/NEA and
is provided to us courtesy of
Invite both parents.
Encourage both parents to attend conferences when possible. Misunderstandings
are less common if both parents hear what you have to say, and you'll be able to gauge the
kind of support both parents give the child. (Of course, remember that both mother
and father may not be available. Today, when some 60 percent of adult women work
outside the home, it may not always be the mother who's available to meet. And many
children come from single-parent homes; you could unwittingly hurt a child's feelings by
always asking to meet the "mother.")
Make contact early. You'll get your relationship with parents
off to a good start if you contact them early in the year, perhaps with a memo or
newsletter sent home to all pupils. Give parents an outline of what their children
will be studying, and let them know you'll be happy to meet with them during the
year. (Be sure to say how and when they may contact you for conferences.)
Allow enough time. Schedule plenty of time for the
meeting. Twenty to thirty minutes is usually adequate. If you're scheduling
back-to-back conferences, be sure to allow enough time between them (10 minutes or so) so
you can make necessary notes on the just-concluded conference and prepare for the upcoming
Be ready for questions. Be prepared to answer specific
questions parents may have. They're likely to ask questions such as: -What is my
child's ability level?
-Is my child working up to his/her ability level?
-How is my child doing in specific subjects?
-Does my child cause any trouble?
-Does my child have any specific skills or abilities in schoolwork?
Get your papers organized in advance. Assemble your grade book,
test papers, samples of the student's work, attendance records and other pertinent data
together ahead of time. That way you won't be fumbling through stacks on your desk
during the meeting.
Plan ahead. Have in mind a general but flexible outline of what
you're going to say, including a survey of student progress, a review of his or her
strengths and needs, and a proposed plan of action.
Greet parents near the entrance they'll use. You'll alleviate
anxiety and frustration (nothing is more confusing to the uninitiated than wandering
around those look-alike school hallways trying to find the right classroom) and makes
parents feel more welcome.
Get the name right. Don't assume that Jennifer Peabody's mother
is Mrs. Peabody. She could well have been married again since Jennifer was born.
Check your records ahead of time to make sure you've got the parents' names right.
And don't assume that the wrinkled gray-haired gentleman coming in with Johnny is his
grandfather. It could be his father, or an uncle. Politely ask. Try not
to talk to the Smiths about their son "Stan" when their son's name is
Avoid physical barriers. Don't sit behind your desk, while
forcing the parents to squeeze into the children's desks on the front row or perch
miserably on folding chairs. Arrange a conference-style seating if possible so you'll all
be equals together.
Open on a positive note. Begin conferences on a warm, positive
note to get everyone relaxed. Start with a positive statement about the child's abilities,
work or interests.
Structure the session. As soon as the parents arrive, review
the structure of the conference--the why, what, how, and when so that you'll both have an
Be specific in your comments. Parents may flounder if you deal
only in generalities. Instead of saying "She doesn't accept responsibility," pin
down the problem by pointing out "Amanda had a whole week to finish her report but
she only wrote two paragraphs."