The ultimate goal of parent teacher conferences is for parents and teachers to connect, ask questions, and design solutions that create an atmosphere of success for every child.
So what can we do as teachers and parents to ensure these conferences are meaningful and helpful for everyone? We need to know…
- How to prepare for parent teacher conferences
- The “DOs and DON’Ts” of parent teacher conferences (during the meeting)
- How to effectively follow up after the conference
As parents, we want to make sure our children are learning at school and actively participating in the classroom community. As teachers, we need to understand the home/life dynamic because this has an impact on the way we interact with each child.
That’s why parent teacher meetings are so important.
Because parents and teachers are on the same team, the feedback we exchange provides valuable insight into how we should proceed with learning and discipline to maximize a child’s educational experience.
How to Prepare for Parent Teacher Conferences
Everyone wants to feel prepared when they go into a meeting, and these conferences are no different. Whether you’re a parent or a teacher, you need to know how to prepare for parent teacher conferences.
1. Create Specific Questions
Honestly, these meetings can feel really intimidating as a parent. You love your child so fiercely and you want only the best for him. And that’s EXACTLY why you want to be prepared!
Write any questions that you would like to ask the teacher. They can be as specific or general as you would like them to be, but they must be relevant to your child.
Here are a few examples to get you thinking.
- What is my child’s greatest strength?
- What is my child’s greatest weakness?
- What can I do to reinforce what he is learning at school?
- Is my child participating in class?
- Is he/she respectful to you and the other students?
- Is my child a contributing member of the class?
- Are there any issues in class that I need to know about?
Remember, this “question time” is specifically about your child and the things you can do to support your child. By keeping your focus on this, you can stay on-track without wasting your precious time on irrelevant small talk.
2. Get Your Child Involved
Allowing your child to help create questions to ask during the conferences will further illustrate the importance of parent teacher meetings.
Your child will see…
- You value this one-on-one time with the teacher.
- You view school (and education) as important.
- You want him/her to be successful.
- You appreciate his/her thoughts on relevant questions.
No one asks for an opinion they don’t want. Therefore, by allowing your child to take part in the question creating, you are essentially saying that you value your child’s thoughts.
Then once your child helps create the questions, ask how she thinks her teacher will respond to each question. This will open up a dialogue about some of the things that have been going on at school, how your child feels about her teacher, and it will give you insight into a day in her life.
Lastly, this will also give your child confidence and help her understand that you’re not going to the meeting with the intention of speaking poorly about her.
1. Create an Agenda
As a teacher, you definitely need to know how to prepare for parent teacher conferences. And the first thing you need is an agenda of the topics you want to discuss with each parent. This will help you stay on track and maximize the amount of time that you can devote to each family.
Be sure to include anything that is relevant to the specific child as well as upcoming events related to this particular season of school. Some examples might include upcoming test dates, recent test scores, additional meetings (IEP, behavior plan), school fundraisers, or picture day.
I’ve created an agenda & a parent teacher conference checklist that you can download for free! To access this, click here to be taken to the Free Printable Library. (If you don’t know the password, click here to gain free access.)
At the beginning of the meeting, consider providing parents with a copy of the agenda so they will have a “transcript” of the parent teacher conference to take home with them.
2. Offer an Incentive for Students
These meetings are critical for student success. So offering an incentive for students who can encourage their parents to attend is always helpful. Consider providing a “no homework” pass to any student whose parent attends the meeting.
This will make the student (and the parent) very happy!
Now for those students with parents, who will not come to the meetings, offer alternatives. They can also receive a “no homework” pass if their guardian will set up either a phone call meeting or email you.
Obviously a phone call or an email isn’t optimal, but the key is developing a connection with your students’ parents/guardians. So take what you can get by getting your students involved!
The “DOs & DON’Ts” of Parent Teacher Conferences
Now that you know how to prepare for parent teacher conferences, you need to know what to during the meeting itself. Remember, time will be limited so stay focused and attentive throughout the conversation and make notes so you don’t forget anything discussed.
1. Do Listen Actively
Remember that your child’s teacher wants to spend time with you, but she has to divide her time between ALL of the parents. So maximize your time by asking the questions you prepared and then actually listening to what the teacher is telling you.
The teacher wants your child to be successful, and she is going to be honest during the meeting. But do not expect everything the teacher says about your child to be perfect.
We all have areas in our lives that can be improved. And it’s the teacher’s job to help your child strengthen areas of weakness.
2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
While most of the time we focus on the “do’s” of parent teacher conferences, this is the most important “don’t.”
Don’t take anything personally.
The key to actively listening is making sure that you are hearing what the other individual is saying without adding any assumptions into the conversation. Therefore, when the teacher is discussing areas in your child’s learning or behavior that can be improved, do not take it personally.
She is NOT saying that your will need to repeat the second grade simply because he failed one math test. She is also NOT saying that you are a bad parent because your child pushed another child on the playground.
The teacher is mentioning these issues because she wants to find a solution.
- Maybe your child failed his math test because the content just hasn’t “clicked” yet or maybe he forgot to study.
- Your child might have pushed another child on the playground as a means of self-defense or to keep the other child from being hit by a swing.
The truth is that NONE of us want to think our children are less than angelic, but they aren’t perfect and neither are we. So, just be open to the possibility that you might find out some things that you weren’t expecting.
There may be consistent issues with your child’s learning or behavior that are concerning the teacher. In this case, you need to realize that feeling sad, overwhelmed, frustrated, or even angry is perfectly normal.
However, don’t take this as a sign that you are failing your child.
3. Do Share Your Reality
Any major changes in your child’s life that could affect her participation in class need to be shared with the teacher. Most teachers want to support your child in any way possible.
That’s why you need to inform the teacher when any of the following events occur.
- Death of a family member or beloved pet
- Birth of a sibling
If you’ve noticed changes in mood, behaviors, or attitudes at home, you need to share these with the teacher also. By sharing this information, your child’s teacher may be able to shed some light on anything different that is going on at school. This insight could be the key to uncovering what is causing these changes in your child.
Changes in behavior do not always indicate trouble, but some concerning emotions might include…
- Excessive stress
These types of behaviors and emotions could be signs of issues that need to be addressed immediately.
4. Don’t Make Excuses
If the teacher points to an area of improvement that seems contrary to your child’s personality, after listening carefully to what the teacher says, offer any information that could help the teacher better understand your child.
For example, let’s say the teacher would prefer your child to be more actively involved in classroom discussions. If your child is quiet by nature, share this fact with the teacher. It’s very possible that your child will never be one to volunteer in class, but there are other ways that he can be a contributing member.
You know your child best, so don’t make excuses for your child’s actions, simply help the teacher understand them. This will create a much better atmosphere for learning.
1. Do Make Parents Feel Welcome
Going into a parent teacher meeting is intimidating! But, in all reality, the parents are probably just as nervous as you are to meet. To ease your own nerves, have your agenda next to you with any applicable notes for each child. This will give you talking points if you need them.
When they enter your classroom, say hello with a smile and shake hands.
Consider having water available or a small sweet treat for parents to enjoy during the meeting. This will help them feel comfortable and naturally ease their nerves.
2. Don’t Be Dishonest
When a parent asks you a specific question, give them a specific answer. Even if you don’t have all of the answers, it’s ok to say, “I don’t know.” Just be honest with the information you do know and then FIND OUT the answer to any question you don’t know.
But if you will take the time to actively listen to the questions of your student’s parents, you will be able to help that child be successful.
When you do have to share negative feedback, be sure to sandwich the information between two encouraging comments.
Think about it like this. If you start the conversation with the struggles and issues their child is having, the parents are going to feel defensive. The first thing you say sets the tone for the rest of the meeting. You certainly don’t want to start off that way. And you don’t want to end the conversation negatively because they may never come back!
Offer a genuine compliment about their child before talking about areas of concern. Then end the conversation with the fact that you are so happy to have their child in your classroom and that you are excited to see the progress she makes in 3rd grade.
Also consider sharing any funny moments involving their child. These anecdotes are always a welcome reprieve when you have to talk about difficult topics.
It’s essential that we’re willing to tell parents the whole truth even if it could potentially upset them. The only way they can support their child (and ultimately us) is by hearing the reality of what happens each day at school.
Hearing the “bad” mixed in with the “good” will help parents accept the information much more readily.
After Parent Teacher Conferences
1. Create an Action Plan
While knowing how to prepare for parent teacher conferences and what to do when you get there are important, creating an action plan and following up with your child’s teacher are essential.
If you truly want to help your child, ask the teacher what she would like for you to reinforce at home. Then take the time to apply the information that the teacher provides.
Remember, the teacher wants to come alongside you and help your child be successful. She isn’t trying to make life more difficult at home. So make the effort to implement these changes…and sooner rather than later.
The best way to do this is for you and your child to talk about what the teacher shared. This will include discussing what areas need to be improved and then deciding how to proceed!
2. Follow Up
After a fair amount of time has passed since the meeting (and enough time to implement the changes you and the teacher agreed on), check in with the teacher to see if things have changed at school.
Let her know how things are going at home and be sure to mention any changes that have occurred since you last met. Also discuss any changes that you feel need to happen to the original goals that you set in the action plan.
Then adjust the action plan and your expectations accordingly. This will be a clear indication to the teacher that you truly want to bind together with her to create the best learning situation possible for your child.
1. Create an Action Plan
Don’t just state the problems; offer solutions. Parents may be shocked or overwhelmed with what you have to say. To show them you really care about their child, present them with well-thought out plans to solve some of the issues.
Yes, I said SOME of the issues!
Instead of solving all the problems, ask parents for their insight on what actions would ensure the best results for their child. Asking for parental insight reminds them that you really do want their child to succeed and it gives you a better picture of how to resolve the problems.
2. Follow Up
Thanking each parent for coming and staying in contact with them after the meeting are essential.
Make sure that you respond to any questions parents had that you were unable to answer at the parent teacher conferences. Also be sure to inform parents of any positive changes in their child’s behavior after the meeting.
If you know that the parents are working with their child at home to help them be successful, be sure to thank them for their efforts and let them know the impact it is making on the child’s academic success.
As teachers and parents, we have the opportunity to create an amazing learning experience for each child. And now that you know how to prepare for parent teacher conferences, what to do during the conferences, as well as how to follow up afterwards, you’re ready to tackle parent teacher conferences.
Just remember that the most important thing we can do is connect with one another and create a team designed to help kids be successful.