It's that time of year again - time for parent/teacher conferences. Whether it's your first year teaching or your 10th, it's still normal to have anxious feelings towards conferences. There's a lot of preparation involved, and meeting with dozens of unfamiliar people back-to-back can be intimidating. Here are 10 tips to help make your parent/teacher conferences run smoothly!
1. Be Prepared
This may sound like a given, but you want to be prepared for the day. Here are some ways I help myself be at my best on conference days:
Get a good night's rest the night before.
Plan your meals, snacks, and drinks - nothing is worse than a growling stomach during a conference. Pack quick and easy snacks to eat throughout the night. Don't forget to stay hydrated!
Pack deodorant and toothbrush! Sounds silly, but after a full day of teaching I always felt like I needed a quick refresh before starting conferences.
Plan an easier day in the classroom. Use that packet you bought off TPT, throw in an extra recess, or do an easy art project. I have found that saving my energy for the conferences have helped me tremendously! You could also have your students work on decorating their conference folder!
Don't stress. Sounds easier than it actually is, but the more you stress the more conferences will loom over you and the more anxious you will be. Use some calming techniques and reach out to a coworker or admin if there's a specific conference you are concerned about.
2. Have Paperwork + Folders Ready
Everyone does conferences differently. Here's what paperwork I like to share and send home with parents after a conference:
Snapshot - This gives a brief overview of the student as a whole. I like to share about the student's work habits, behavior, and academic progress. These templates are completely editable!
Test Scores - If you've given standardized tests, you may want to share an easy-to-read interpretation of these scores.
Student Pages - I like to have my students fill out some information about the school year. This can be a fun keepsake and can lead to some great conversations. Students can write about the classroom expectations, what they're proud of, what they are still working on, and some goals they have. Students can make a little book like this:
Student Work - If you have time at the end, it's fun to send home something the student has worked hard on. This can be a math worksheet, art project, writing piece, anything!
I have found it works best to use large construction paper folded in half to use as a makeshift folder for these pages. It gives privacy and is an easy activity to do the day of conferences. I let students decorate their 'folder' however they want as long as it has their name on it.
3. Greet Parents with a Smile and a Compliment About Their Child
There's nothing better as a parent than to hear a story about how your child helped someone else or was kind. Starting the conference off with a genuine compliment or story helps parents and you feel at ease and remember that you're a team.
4. Talk About the Whole Child
As teachers, we tend to focus on academics, especially when a child is struggling in one area or another. As a parent, I want to hear about academics, but I also want to know how my child is behaving in the classroom, and how he is doing with friends.
If you use my snapshot as a guide for your conference, you will hit all of these areas. Click here to check it out.
5. Have a Printed Schedule + Folders Organized
This is a super simple tip but can help you have one less thing to think about the night of conferences. Print your schedule and put it on your table for easy access. Put your student folders in the order of the conferences so it is easy to grab the next student's folder when you are in a time crunch.
Here is another easy tip that can help you during conferences. I don't know how many times parents ask a question or ask for a resource that I'm not able to provide during the conference. Having a notebook handy can be an easy way to quickly jot that down so you won't forget.
7. Sandwich with Positivity
This may sound weird but stick with me. Think of the conference as a sandwich - make sure the bread (beginning + end) are positives.
Inevitably, you will have some issues to bring up during conferences. First of all, I find it's best to let parents know of any significant issues or struggles before conference time. Here are some ways to address issues with parents at conferences:
Remember, you are a team.
Ask them for their advice. Parents know their child best.
Don't just bring up problems, bring up a solution.
Have a plan of action to put in place after the conference. If you and the parents cannot come up with a suitable plan, maybe consider an additional meeting or involving admin, depending on the situation.
8. Parent Input
As the conference comes to a close, make sure to ask parents if they have any questions about anything or any concerns.
You don't want to end the conference with any confusion or with parents having no time to ask a question.
9. Thank Them for Coming
This may seem like a given, but always end the conference by thanking parents for coming. Many of them have had long days too and conferences may not be pleasant depending on their past experiences. I like to say something like, "Thank you so much for coming and for supporting _______'s education. I'm so lucky to have him/her as a student.".
10. Follow Up
If there were any notes you took during the conference, any issues brought up, or anything that you think parents may have been concerned about send a follow up email. Thank them again for coming to the conference and reiterate what you talked about at conferences or give a plan of action.
I hope that these tips will help your parent/teacher conferences run smoothly. You can click here to check out the conference pages I referenced above. They are editable and can be tweaked to fit your needs.