‘Tis the season of parent teacher/conferences, not just for me as a teacher, but also for our three school-aged children. Having been on both sides of the table now for a few years, I have been thinking about how we as teachers can use the parent perspective to prepare well. So here are a few tips for better parent/teacher conference from a parent’s perspective.
Send home a questionnaire beforehand.
All three of my children’s teachers did this and it allowed us to really think about what we were hoping to hear about at their conference. We knew that my husband would be the only one present and so we could discuss beforehand what was important to both of us. We then sent it back a few days before so the teacher had time to prepare. Simple questions such as; what would you like to know more about or what concerns do you have if any will do the trick.
Have the child evaluate if they are not present.
While I am a firm believer in student-led conferences, if that is not a possibility have the children self-evaluate beforehand and also invite them along. Thea had circled her answers on her own behavior and work habits and it was great to see the self-reflection.
Start with the praise, sure, but be realistic too.
While I would love to know all of the great things about my child, I certainly need to know where their areas of growth are, even if it as hard conversation to start. More than likely the teacher will not say something surprising. We know children act differently often at school and home, so let me know what the school version of my child is, even if it is a kid that does not make the best of choices.
Give us specific things to work on with them.
While there may be many things our child needs to work on, give us a few specific things. We know that one child really needs to work on his pencil grip and his letter recognition, while another needs to work on chunking and handling frustration more easily. While we know there are many goals we can work on with them, these are the ones that take priority right now.
Give us tools.
I was so impressed with the tools we were handed by our children’s teachers. From math program logins to the computer, to cut out letters, we now have specific tools we can use with our children as we support their further learning.
Allow it to be recorded.
Our children’s conferences were on the days that I had to give conferences so my husband asked if we could record the conversation on his phone. That meant I did not have to rely on his retelling but instead could hear the whole conversation. While I wish I could have been present to be a part of the conversation, this was the next best thing. I was so grateful to hear the whole conversation and not just the big parts.
Show us that you know our child.
This is something I am still working on with my many middle school children, but I try to show parents that I actually know their child just a little. Again, we were impressed with the care that our childrens’ teachers took with how they interact with them. It was clear that not only are they great teachers, but also great human beings that truly care about the kids they teach.
Let your enthusiasm shine through.
Even when we had to discuss a few not so great decisions or things to work on, it was clear that these teachers love their job and the kids they teach. Leaving a conference feeling like your child is in the best of hands is an incredible feeling. It also means that if these teachers have to have harder discussions with us about things our kids may have done or not done, we know that they are coming from a place of love.
I am so grateful to the stellar education all of my children are receiving and also to the way that their teachers communicate with us. While our children are by no means perfect, we know that every day they are in the best of hands; caring teachers who will challenge them and also be partners as we try to help them grow into even better human beings.
I am currently working on a new literacy book. The book, which I am still writing, is tentatively Passionate Readers and will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge. I also have a new book coming out January, 2017 called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like infuse global collaboration into their curriculum. So until then if you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.