Follow these guidelines and you'll be on the right track:
- Give parents plenty of notice. Remember that parents have busy lives and challenging work schedules. The more notice you give them, the more likely they will be able to attend the Parent-Teacher Conference.
- Start and end the Parent-Teacher Conference on a positive note. Remember that parents are often nervous, too. Set them at ease by starting off with your positive observations of their child. After you've explained some areas of improvement, finish the conference off with more things the parents can feel good about. This goes a long way toward creating a positive working relationship with them.
- Be organized. Fill out a pre-conference form for each student, complete with space for your notes and follow-up issues. The conference may be your first impression on the parents, and your organization will inspire confidence in your abilities to help their child this year.
- Listen actively. When the parents speak, concentrate and really hear what they are trying to communicate to you. You may even want to take notes. When parents feel heard, you are setting up a cooperative relationship for the coming school year.
- Have samples of student work to back up your points. When discussing specific learning goals for the student, show the parents what you observed in the classwork that shows a need for improvement. On the flip side, you can also show samples of work well done, so they can see how much the students are learning with you.
- Give the parents homework. Think of 2-3 customized tasks that the parents can do at home to help their child learn this school year. It may not always happen as you hope, but it's worth a shot. Offer worksheets, web sites, and tools to support their efforts.
- Call in the principal for touchy situations. Sometimes teachers need to call for backup. If a specific set of parents have already showed some hostility towards you, a trusted administrator can act as a facilitator who has everyone's best interests at heart. Moreover, the principal can act as a witness for you, if the tone of the conference starts to sour.
- Don't stray from the topic at hand. It's easy for conversations to wander off into fun topics, such as shared interests. But remember why you are having this conference in the first place and keep the meeting on track.
- Don't Get Emotional. Stay professional and objective as you describe the behavior you've observed from a particular child. If you stay rational and calm, the parents likely will, as well.
- Don't run late. Once the Parent-Teacher Conference schedule is set, do everything possible to keep things running in a timely manner. Parents have busy lives and have dropped everything to meet with you at the appointed time. Respectiung their time will make a great impression.
- Don't have a messy classroom. We all know that classrooms can get messy during the busy course of a school day. But spend some time straightening up your room, especially your desk, in order to make the best possible impression.
- Don't overwhelm the parents with too many at-home tasks. Choose 2-3 doable ways that the parents can support learning at home. Be specific and offer them the tools they will need to help their child.