Conferences can be prone to cause a little anxiousness on both ends for parents and teachers. Some parents may be nervous to hear what their child’s teacher has to say. And on the other side of camp, some teachers might feel a little apprehensive about conveying so much important information in one concise little time slot, and also doing it in a way that is articulate, charismatic, and professional…whew!
Here are three main tips to help your parent conferences go off without a hitch (even with that parent…if you know, you know)!
1. Get it together.
Well, obviously…wouldn’t we all like to get our lives together in a general sense? But what I mean is, get together all the actual things you will need ahead of time. The last thing you want to be doing during a limited time frame is shuffling around looking for a certain paper you’re missing. A little organization and preparation go a long way.
I like to use a file box with hanging file folders and a folder inside each one for every student. I number these so that I can reuse them each year (the free template for these labels is from Amy Groesbeck’s TpT store).
Make a list of everything you want to include in the student folders to show at conferences. Things like student work samples, grading scales, assessment data, etc. Once you’ve got all your paper piles, get comfy and start filing away.
When it’s game time, it’s super easy to just reach into that hanging folder and pull that student’s folder. As you finish each conference, you might use a checklist to check off each family you’ve met with, or something I’ve also done is to just pull out all of the folders for the conferences I have on one particular day. I stack them up on the table in the order I have them scheduled. By the end of the day, I can quickly see by the empty folders if there were any no shows, and just do the checklist at the very end.
2. Say something nice!
What parent doesn’t like to hear someone brag about their kid? Before I delve into data, I like to start out each conference by telling parents a few positive things about their child, whether it’s what they’re doing well academically, or compliments about their behavior. If possible, I try to give a quick little story/anecdote about something wonderful they’ve said or done in class. It helps put the parents a little more at ease right off the bat.
3. Give your kids ownership.
Before conferences, I announce to my class that I’ll be meeting with their families soon and that I’m going to get to tell them all about how they’re doing at school. But I also let the kids know that I don’t just want to tell their parents how I think they’re doing. I want to give them a chance to share how they think they are doing too, because their opinion matters!
I believe it’s important to give kids opportunities to reflect about their behavior and their work habits, and so I give each student a self-evaluation to fill out.
Before I pass these out to my students, I emphasize that this is private information, not to be shared with their classmates. The only people who are going to see it besides themselves are their teacher and their parents/guardians.
I also talk about how important it is for them to be honest. It’s not bragging if they choose a happy face for one of the sentences (or all of them). On the same token, it’s not shameful if they feel they should choose any that are not a happy face. It just means they are truly reflecting about how they really have been doing, and that is a huge first step to becoming an even better student. I tell the kids that this allows them to start thinking of ideas of how they can improve in that area. That way of thinking will make both their parents and teacher very proud, and most importantly, make themselves proud!
After the kids have completed these, I file them into the hanging folders I mentioned above. At their conference, the very next thing I do after sharing my own positive comments is to show their parents a copy of their child’s self-evaluation. Having this information from the student’s own point of view can be very powerful, and it makes for a great jumping off point for discussion about their child’s performance at school. Once we have that foundation, it leads very nicely into showing work samples and talking about assessment data.
I have recently updated this self-assessment to also include a Google Slides digital version for distance learning. My conferences are going to be done virtually over Zoom this year, but I still wanted to give my kids a chance to self-reflect on how they’re doing with learning remotely.
I’ve created several versions so that you can use this student self-reflection whether you’re currently teaching in the classroom or remotely, and no matter what digital platforms you might be using. The resource includes both the printable and digital options, and both are editable so that you can make customizations to meet the needs of your class. If you use Google Meet instead of Zoom for distance learning, there is also an identical slide of the one shown in the photo above, but for Google Meet.
Best of all, this resource is completely FREE for teachers who are a part of my email list. So if you already are, check your inbox because I’ve sent you the free download! If you have not yet had a chance to join, feel free to sign up here and this resource will be emailed right to you.
Sending you all the positive vibes for successful parent conferences this year! The most important thing for parents to know is that their kid’s teacher cares about their child. And there’s no doubt that you do (cause I mean, here you are reading a teaching blog when you could be watching Netflix). So when it comes to being a teacher who cares, make sure to give yourself a happy face on your own self reflection! 🙂