Wednesday, September 5, 2007

13 Words of Advice Regarding Great Parent-Teacher Conferences

If August/September means it is back to school then conference time is just around the corner. Here in my neck of the woods progress reports come out this week. That means next week I’ll be receiving frantic phone calls and e-mails from parents wanting to meet with me.

This week’s 13 list centers on things parents would like teachers to know regarding having a great conference.

Parents say:

1. Please tell me at least 3 good things about my child’s behavior, character, or academic work before you launch into “the problem”.

2. I’m sorry I have to bring my child’s younger brothers and sisters. I know it’s distracting. Could you have a few picture books or puzzles out for little hands to stay busy with? I’ll try to remember to bring a favorite toy or snack such as raisins or Cheerios, but I might forget.

3. Can you have adult-sized chairs for us? I cannot concentrate or speak well if my knees are up around my ears, and I’m sure you can’t either.

4. It is ok to tell me you don’t know something when I ask a question, but please help me by hooking me up with a source or person that can help me.

5. I don’t want to appear rude by showing up and interrupting another parent’s conference. Could you close the door, and place a conference schedule outside your room? A chair might be nice as well so I can sit if I arrive early.

6. Please remember this is my child we are speaking about. I get a little emotional and sometimes irrational where he or she is concerned. That’s what parents do….sometimes.

Help me by staying calm, and lead me back to the focus of our conversation when I wander. The most important things I need to hear from you are:

*is my child attentive during lessons or off-task
*exactly where does my child stand academically in comparison to others in the class as well as nationally (show me the test scores)
*which areas does my child excel in
*tell me how my child gets along with others
*exactly how long should the homework take

7. Understand that sometimes it is simply not feasible for me to come in and have a face-to-face meeting. It does not always mean I don’t care. Be willing to have a phone conference with me.

8. If you feel my child has multiple problems please don’t overwhelm me with several items all at once. Choose one or two of the most pressing issues and let’s work on those first. Maybe the solutions for the major problems will help solve the other issues.

9. Please don’t speak in generalities such as, “You certainly have a sweet girl.” I know this. She’s my child. Tell me something specific such as, “You daughter consoled another student who was having a bad day. She’s so giving.”

10. Please check my child’s permanent record and invite the correct custodial parent. I’m sorry we have to confuse you with step-parents and grandparents. The connections are confusing and all the different names are confusing, but please make sure the custodial parent is called for conference so that we don’t cause any further family hostility or confusion.

11. Remember that I’m not a professional educator. Please don’t use professional language or abbreviations I know nothing about. I understand school environments have changed since I was in school, but I tend to relate my child’s school experience with my own. Also, if you want to discuss a problem my child might be having I can assist you better if you have a few suggestions for me.

12. Ask for my opinions. Remember to ask me if I have any concerns or questions.

13. If we discussed a problem and possible solutions please follow up with me in a few days to inquire if I am noticing a change and to let me know if you have seen a change.

Ok, all you parents out there head on over to the comments and tell me what you think.

In your conference experiences, what made a great conference and what caused them to fail?

I promise to pass along the good and the bad. :)

Thursday Thirteen rocks. Visit the hub to join in.


Jenny McB said...

What a great idea! I have been on both sides of the table. As a parent, I want to hear about my child and what they are learning, not about the teacher's personal life.

I have had parents tell me that they are so sick of hearing how nice their kid is, when they want to know why there are difficulties with their child's progress in that class.

Lori said...

LOL...all GREAT ideas. Happy TT.

Robin said...

That's a great list! I'd like to add one more:

If there IS a problem, and said parent is asking you every morning how their child is doing, please do NOT wait for MONTHS until you mention it. Treat parents as partners, not adversaries.

PS This problem she dropped on me at a conference in February? The one that had been apparently going on all year long? I solved it in TWO DAYS once she finally bothered to mention it to me. It was several years ago and I'm STILL angry.

Marsha said...

Great list. Much appreciated. As a parent those conferences are always very intimidating to me. My oldest is a very quiet child, and I always got so much praise from teachers about her behavior. I would have appreciated some more constructive feedback. Reading this list gives me the tools to know what to ask for, thanks.

Happy TT.

Anthony said...

Great list! Our parent teacher conferences are coming up in a few weeks. I may print these out and place them in teachers' mailboxes as reminders.

Evan said...

It is an applicable list! Parents and teachers conference is very essential for the students!
Education Analyst

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