How Effective Educators Prepare for Parent-Teacher Conferences

How Effective Educators Prepare for Parent-Teacher Conferences
The Editorial Team November 1, 2013

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Teachers have to work hard to prepare for parent-teacher conference meetings. They need to express the academic progress of the children while urging parents to support their teaching strategies and address areas the children need to work on. Here are several tips for successful conference preparation.

Offer a Flexible Conference Schedule

Some parents have more than one student in the school, so they need teachers to be flexible when scheduling conferences. In these cases, teachers may need to meet with parents early in the morning, later in the afternoon or during recess breaks.

Arrange for a Translator

Parents who don’t speak English require a translator. Teachers may need to arrange a translator so that they can effectively communicate.

Sit Side by Side

Teachers and parents are on the same team and work together to ensure children succeed in school. That conviction and mindset is advocated by the School Mediator, who advises teachers to sit next to parents rather than across from them behind a desk. By arranging the furniture in a friendly and non-threatening way, teachers express their desire to partner with each parent, which defuses tension on both sides.

Prepare Adequately

An elementary school classroom may include 15 to 30 students, while high school teachers prepare conference material for hundreds of students. These conferences require hours of preparation. Effective teachers keep accurate and current records. They prepare:

  • Test results
  • Work samples
  • Anecdotal notes

While preparing for parent-teacher conferences takes time, proper record-keeping can make the task easier.

Write it Down

Even the best teachers won’t remember all the details they need to share with every parent. Detailed notes ensure teachers share all the pertinent details and keep them on schedule.

Include the Positive

Each child has good traits. Effective teachers always share at least one positive trait with parents at the beginning and another at the end of the conference. That trait could be academic or a character trait, such as helpfulness, persistence or hard work.

Create Clear Goals

Every student, even the gifted ones, can improve in some way. Teachers should write clear goals for each student. Along with the goals, teachers should write an action plan with specific steps for improvement.

Give Parents Responsibility

Children do better in school when their parents are involved, according to a recent report by the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory. Effective teachers involve parents by asking them to monitor homework or sign progress reports.

Encourage Questions

Approachable teachers ingratiate parents to them and promote a positive experience. Parents should feel comfortable asking questions about their child’s academic success, friendships and other traits.

Handle Hostile Parents

No matter how prepared and affirming teachers are, some parents may be hostile. They’re used to hearing bad news, don’t trust teachers, feel a need to defend their child or are upset about something else and take their anger out on the teacher. Effective teachers remain calm and follow a few tips from the National Education Association.

  • Emphasize the positive.
  • Let the parents talk first.
  • Use active listening.
  • Discuss how both parties want what’s best for the child.
  • Agree on a strategy and get on the same page before including the child in the conversation.

Stay Professional

Teachers have a hard job, and they may be tempted to stray into unprofessional territory during conferences. Several conversations or topics should never be discussed with parents, including:

  • Talking negatively about school administrators or other teachers.
  • Comparing two or more students to each other.
  • Blaming parents for a child’s performance or struggle.
  • Arguing with parents.

Share Contact Information

Parents should be able to get in touch with their child’s teacher. Often, email is the most convenient way for teachers to receive messages and respond to parents, but phone calls or future conferences may be necessary, too. The teacher must set the guidelines and boundaries for future communications.

Parent-teacher conferences give both parties the chance to determine a child’s academic progress and create a plan for future success. Effective teachers plan ahead, listen to parents and ensure each conference remains full of workable solutions that have the student’s best interests in mind.

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