Tonight’s the night you’re meeting the caregivers.
It’s scary. I know because I’ve been there.
You’ve been teaching their children for weeks, but now you have to sit face-to-face and discuss your students’ successes and failures.
First, take a deep breath. You’ve got this!
Parent-teacher conferences are a critical component of teaching and serve as a crucial bridge between home and school. Teachers and caregivers are given the opportunity to collaborate to make sure a student is on their way to succeeding.
I’m here as your teacher bestie to fill you in on my top ten ways to ace your parent teacher conferences.
1 – Smile and Show Warmth
The most important thing you want to demonstrate to your parents is that you’re on the same team. You both want what’s best for the student.
I know you’re not out to get them, but you need the parents to know that.
If you’re nervous, take a deep breath and remember – you are a qualified professional and you’re doing an amazing job.
As caregivers arrive, smile and create a welcoming environment. Make sure you are empathetic and ready to listen.
If you are kind, they are more likely to be kind, as well.
2 – Be Well-Prepared
It is so important to be prepared when the parents come for conferences.
Every school is different. I have worked in schools where parents don’t sign up for time slots and just show up, and I have worked at schools where parents do sign up for time slots.
If the parents are not signing up for time slots and you’re not sure of who is coming when, just be ready to go. I have my school issued device opened and the online gradebook loaded, so I can access each student’s data faster.
If you don’t have a school issued device, then I would print out the grade reports for each student. To keep them organized, I would print them by class in alphabetical order so they are easy to locate.
If your parents sign up for time slots, then I would print grade reports according to the schedule. If you’re worried about other parents showing up, you could print the other grade reports or just access them electronically.
Being prepared also means preparing key information you would like to pass onto parents. This information can include test dates, upcoming field trips, an overview of the syllabus, etc…
If you missed my science syllabus template for back to school, you can still get it here.
By being prepared, the parents are more likely to respect you. How you portray yourself here is how they perceive you in the classroom.
3 – Invite the Student
One thing I love doing is inviting the students to come to conferences with their parents. Middle school is a great grade level to start doing this since the students are taking more ownership of their learning.
When you think about it, they are the ones that are explicitly learning, and their opinion matters.
Asking questions like, “How do you think you’re doing in class?” can provide valuable insights into their self-awareness and perspective. It also allows the student to practice self-reflection and determine what they can do better in the classroom.
If the student is present, then you, the parents, and the student can determine what they need to succeed. Three ideas are better than two!
4 – Dress Professionally
How you feel is how you dress.
I have lived by this motto for my entire teaching career.
The way you present yourself to parents can significantly impact the tone and atmosphere of the discussion.
Consider wearing attire that aligns with your school’s dress code and your personal style. Choose clothing that makes you feel confident and in control. You don’t have to go overboard with formal wear, but presenting yourself neatly and professionally can enhance your credibility and set a positive tone for the conference.
Also, parent teacher conferences are long nights. So, be sure you’re wearing something you’re comfortable in.
Remember that dressing professionally is not just about making a good impression; it’s also about conveying respect for the parents’ time and concerns.
5 – Offer Strategies and Resources
Everything will not always be sunshine and rainbows in your classroom.
You will have students who have difficult times and behaviors.
In both of those scenarios, the parents may come to you for assistance because they have simply run out of ideas.
If the student is struggling academically, let the parents know of any tutors in the area or when you are available for help.
Believe it or not, I have had parents who didn’t realize there were educational videos on YouTube or other platforms, such as Khan Academy. Never assume they just know!
If the student is struggling with areas other than academics, help direct the parent to the guidance counselor for additional resources.
6 – Encourage Open Communication
When you are discussing a student’s progress with his/her parents, let them know that they can always contact you with concerns.
Make sure they are aware of the best way to communicate, whether that be by email or phone.
Now… I’m not saying you shouldn’t have boundaries.
Be honest with them about your communication style. For instance, I let my parents know that I prefer communication over email, but I generally don’t check emails after contract hours, and I will respond within 24 hours.
See how easy that was?
Most parents are respectful of your time when they are made aware of your communication style.
7 – Balance Struggles with Successes
Most of the time, parents will come to parent teacher conferences if their student is struggling.
When this is the case, make sure to not only focus on the negative.
I like to follow what is sometimes called the “Oreo” or “Sandwich” rule. By using these strategies, you start with a positive attribute about the student, then mention what the student is struggling with, and finish off with another positive attribute.
It may sound like this, “Johnny is very creative and talented in Art, but he tends to be playing games on his Chromebook, which causes him to miss out on learning time in class. I just know he could achieve even better grades if he used his full attention in class.”
When parents hear positive things about their child, they are less likely to get defensive. From this point on, it is much easier to collaborate and set common goals for the good of the student.
8 – Bring Student Work Samples
In my opinion, it is much easier to show parents their student’s work as opposed to just telling them.
So, I usually show student work samples at parent teacher conferences. The work samples you show will depend on what you teach. If you teach science, then you may take a recent lab or test for parents to look at. On the other hand, if you teach art, you’d probably bring a couple recent art projects.
If your parents sign up for scheduled times, then it is easy to pull out the student work you need. If your parents do not sign up for scheduled times, you will just need to take the work for the entire class.
While it may seem inconvenient, the conversation, collaboration, and respect from the parents are worth it.
9 – Ask One Important Question
At the end of the parent teacher conference, your relationships with the parents will be forever changed with one game changing question.
Ask the parents, “Is there anything I should know about your student that will help your student succeed in my class?”
I can bet many parents will be shocked that you asked them this question, but it will be a pleasant surprise.
By asking this question, you are showing parents that you want to act as a team and help their child succeed in school, but also with skills they will need outside of the school environment.
10 – Follow Up
At conferences, I have parents sign in. I do this so I can follow up with those parents.
Usually, our parent teacher conferences are on a Thursday. When the following Monday rolls around, I will just send a follow up email thanking them for attending and reiterating that I am here if they ever need to reach out.
This small gesture truly goes a long way with parents and is appreciated.
Have a Great Parent Teacher Conference Night
I hope that these tips have helped you feel more prepared for parent teacher conferences.
While you may still feel overwhelmed and nervous (which is totally normal), just know that you will get through it unscathed.
Just remember to breathe and take it conference by conference. Go with the mentality that you and the parents are working as a team with the best interests of the students in mind.
If you have any other tips for a successful parent teacher conference night, I would love to hear them!
I hope you have a wonderful day,