“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
– Colossians 4:6 ESV
Whether you meet with each parent in your own classroom for a small 15-minute block, see parents in a gym, or are using student-led conferences, this is a time to celebrate, look for areas of improvement, and set goals for the remainder of the year. Although these days and nights can be long, parents appreciate the time and effort that you spend with their children each day.
Preparing for Parent-Teacher Conferences
For most of us, we only have about 15-20 minutes at the most to talk with parents during a parent-teacher conference. In order to maximize your time, have important information that you are ready to talk about available, but also other information such as reports, etc. that they could read more in-depth at home. Grades are important, but in my opinion, they are as important as knowing the student well. Take some time to focus on what is going well and areas to improve.
Templates and Examples to Get You Started
There are many parent-teacher conference templates out there, but here is a free template that I like and it seems to cover many different areas for elementary students. Check out this example from TpT that can be modified for secondary students. If you think you might run more than 15-20 minutes, make sure you schedule a time prior to or after the conference to meet to talk about other pressing issues.
Start with the Positive
I learned early on from my mentor that when you are having conversations with parents about their children, start with the positive. Even if you need to search a little bit for it, every student has something that we can celebrate. Starting on a positive note helps to relax parents and ease into the conversation if there are areas of concern later on.
Since going to parent-teacher conferences for my own children, I can see from a parent’s perspective how hearing positive news first is always beneficial. These parents want to know that you care for their children, and one simple way we can do that is to start the conference with a celebration or two and then move on to areas of improvement.
Areas to Improve
We want to make the most of parent-teacher conferences, so make sure you address the more pressing issues in person. During this time I would often go over some academic data and voice any concerns about behaviors in and outside of the classroom. Many parents want to know how their students are getting along with their peers.
Voice your Concerns, but Be Quick to Listen.
Teachers do not always know outside factors of why a student may be falling behind or is just now showing behaviors not present at the beginning of the year. Take time to listen as well as offer a plan to move forward. Parents want to know there will be something in place for improvement for the rest of the year.
The improvement does not happen at school alone. Buy-in has to be from the families as well. If parents and educators are on the same page as far as expectations, then the student will be more likely to reach their goals for the end of the school year.
Goals for the Rest of the Year
Making the most of parent-teacher conferences are important because it sets the tone for how the rest of the year will go. This meeting is a checkpoint in order to see what can be done to meet student needs. June will be here before we know it, so it is important to set goals for the rest of the year. For younger students, they may need some support, but students in upper elementary through high school should be able to set goals for themselves.
The goals that students set for themselves should be S.M.A.R.T. The goals are specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. I like to have my students write goals for three different areas: Academic, Work Habits, and Personal Goals. The first two we can help the students track in class. This resource is a great one to use with students. The personal goal is fun because it can open the door to great conversations and you get to a student’s dreams and talents on a deeper level.
In order to be successful at this, make sure you have 6-8 checkpoints from now until the end of the year. Have students do a quick reflection and set up a plan if they are not on track. For more in-depth detail on goal setting, check this post to help anyone set great goals in the 7 areas of our lives.
We need to make the most of your parent-teacher conferencing by allowing five minutes or so to discuss any questions or concerns that the family might have. Have a pad of paper handy so you can jot down their concerns. Make sure you also have the family’s updated email address or phone number. This is important because you likely will not have time to address all of their concerns in enough detail, so you might have to reach out at a different time. Time can often help us think of better resources to deliver to parents. I usually tell parents if I cannot find the answer, then I will try to find someone who can.
The night of and/or multiple nights of conferences can be very long, especially with little to no bathroom break between families! Know that the families that you serve appreciate what you do for their children each day, even if they do not say it to you. Keep the open lines of communication going after the conference to help transition the student to the next level.
Want More Strategies and Support Each Week?
Do you go into the classroom on Monday overwhelmed at the week ahead of you? The Momentum Monday newsletter is like a Snickers bar for teachers. Each week, there is great information for what you need right now in your classroom. There are student engagement strategies, teacher self-care, a teacher tech tip, and a Q & A section with actual questions that I have received from teachers. Click to view the latest issue of Momentum Monday and subscribe to future issues and view our past issues!