Last night we had our school’s parent teacher conference.  It was by far the best turnout I have seen in 5 years.  As student teachers, you may be facing an upcoming parent teacher conference or a school open house.  There are some easy ways to handling this.

  1. Communicate early.  Before the conference communicate with parents/guardians.  The parent teacher conference should not be a place of surprises.  I have seen parents/guardians explode when hearing their son or daughter is failing or misbehaving.  Many times the parents anger flows to the student, but, a few times, I have seen the teacher take the blunt of it.  Put yourself in a better position by letting the parent know what’s going on, allowing the conference to be more of a “follow-up” rather than an “announcement” of the students’ progress.  See teachercrispy’s  post on Positive Parent Contact.
  2. Be prepared.  Equip yourself with your gradebook, attendance sheets, and sign-in sheets (to capture parent’s phone and email) for the conference.  If possible bring sample student work and/or rubrics.  This can be a great talking point and gives the parent insight into your teaching and expectations.
  3. Start positive.  Many parents may be a little anxious when meeting their child’s teachers and/or defensive.  A great way to defuse this is by greeting them with a smile and a handshake.  Then give an authentic compliment about their child (don’t lie).  Get the parent excited about what the students are learning in the classroom.  Eventually, then talk about their child’s progress, giving some concrete details or examples illustrating what you mean.
  4. Focus on solutions.  If there are areas for the student to improve in, i.e. classroom behavior, testing, turning in assignments, then be ready to propose possible solutions to tackle these.  The solutions may range from moving a student to creating a block of study time at school or at home to giving additional opportunities to making up work.  If you can’t come up with something on the spot, then ask the student for possible ways to improve.  Many times the students knows exactly what they need to do.  In the end, everybody leaves with a plan and some hope for a turnaround.
  5. Follow-up immediately.  Avoid filing those sign-in sheets, never to look at them again.  Rather, use this as an excellent opportunity to build rapport with the parents.  Send them a quick thank you via email for attending the conference or open house and invite them to contact you if they have any further questions or concerns.