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How To Prepare for Parent Teacher Conferences

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Being organized is the best strategy for Parent Teacher Conferences. Your proactive preparation will make the best possible impression on your students' parents.
Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: varies

Here's How:

  1. Give parents plenty of notice. Send home an invitation 3-4 weeks beforehand, including a blank schedule of available times for Parent Teacher Conferences. Ask the parents to number their top 3 preferred days and times. Respect the schedules of busy parents by confirming the final schedule as soon as possible.
  2. Fill out a pre-conference form to organize your thoughts on each student. During a marathon day of conferences, you'll be glad that you spent time beforehand to jot down specific notes on each individual's work, progress, and 2-3 specific learning goals. Use this form during the conference as an agenda for the meeting. Leave space at the bottom for notes on action items determined during the conference.
  3. Compile examples of student work. Use actual student work to back up your points about the student's triumphs, struggles, and goals. The parents will be far more likely to buy into your message if they can see the same work you see every day.
  4. Make the parents comfortable. Place two chairs outside of your classroom door, in case any parents have to wait for their appointment time. Consider offering coffee, juice, or snacks during the conference. Set out a pen and paper for the parents' note-taking, if they desire.
  5. Ask your principal to attend, if necessary. If you've already had a tense moment or two with a particular set of parents, consider asking your administrator to attend the conference. Not only will he or she protect all parties' best interests, he or she will serve as a witness for all communications between you and the parents.
  6. Take advantage of the parents' visit to your classroom. Set out a sign-up sheet for field trip chaperones or class holiday party volunteers. This will save you from having to send home additional requests throughout the year, and the parents will appreciate being able to plan ahead.
  7. Open the pathways of communication. Place a stack of your business cards on the table so that the parents will be sure to have your contact information, including email address. You may even want to put a little magnet on the back so that they can just plop it on the fridge.
  8. Prepare materials for the parents to take home. Offer the parents 2-3 concrete ways they can support learning at home and make sure to give them the tools they will need to make this happen. This may include multiplication tables, questions to ask during at-home reading, or lists of web sites that facilitate learning online.
  9. Clean up your classroom. Make the best impression with a tidy desk, straightened up bookshelves, an erased whiteboard, your best bulletin boards, and even neatened student desks. Nothing says "Learning happens here" like a structured classroom environment.

Tips:

  1. Be sure to get plenty of sleep the night before. You'll want to be well-rested and mentally alert for the parent teacher conferences.
  2. If you're a new teacher, talk to a colleague you admire and get his or her favorite tips for successful parent teacher conferences. Offer your ideas, as well. Veteran teachers often love to get the fresh perspectives of their less experienced colleagues.
  3. Wear clothes that are comfortable, professional, and modest. This is always a must for teachers, but it is worth mentioning in the context of conferences, as well.
  4. Keep conferences running in a timely manner. Respect the time of your students' parents because actions speak louder than words.
  5. Make sure the parents know how to contact you by phone that day, in case they need to reschedule or are running late.

What You Need

  • Pre-conference form
  • Samples of student work
  • Coffee, juice, and snacks, if you decide to offer them
  • Sign-up sheets for field trips and class parties
  • Business cards
  • Learning materials for parents to take home, customized for their child
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