The Survival Series - Parent-Teacher Conferences October 05 2009

My experience with Parent-Teacher Conferences has been two consecutive days of 20 minute back-to-back meetings with parents for eight hours each day.

INTENSE.

So during these packed days of meetings with parents, it’s important to take some steps to make them as pleasant as possible!

For You

Rest

Don’t plan anything during the conference days, and the day after conferences are over. My kids understand that, as a teacher, I will not be attending extracurricular activities during those days. We stay close to home, eat take-out, and I rest. These plans are non-negotiable.

Take Breaks

During the days of the conferences, do your best to schedule breaks at least every couple of hours. You’ll be talking a lot, so you’ll need water. When you drink the water, you’ll have to use the bathroom. Might as well schedule it now! Plus, it will be good to get up, stretch your legs and grab a treat from the Staff Room.

Start Early

About two weeks before the actual Conferences, look through your grade book and make sure you have some basic benchmark assessments for reading, math and any other subject you want to address. Gather your homework check-off sheets to refer to while filling out a conference form for each student (see below), and send out conference reminders to parents the week before and a couple of days before Conference days. If you can, send out email reminders or a blog or website update about conferences as well, or a class newsletter with a reminder.

For Them

A Place to Wait

As a teacher and a parent, I’ve literally been on both sides of the classroom door, and it can be confusing. Can I bring my child in with me to the conference, or should he wait in the hall? Where should we wait? How long are the conferences? When exactly is my conference?

These questions can be answered with a couple of simple signs. Some of my colleagues post their conference schedule on the outside of their classroom door, so families know exactly when their conference is supposed to start. They also get a sense of how busy the day is and that there is an appointment following theirs – it helps to keep everyone on track. A second sign is a simple explanation – something like, “Please wait here, I’ll be right with you” – along with a couple of chairs in the hallway.

Set the Timer

Conferences are twenty minutes long, and I work hard to make sure I don’t get behind. One way to do this is to have a timer set to twenty minutes. This helps focus the conversation on both sides, and I simply explain at the beginning that it’s a tight schedule and I need to be reigned in or I’ll talk all day. It is, however, a guideline – should the conversation become serious or need further attention, I would turn the timer off.

Write It Down

For each child, write down something about his/her progress in the areas of reading, math, homework, and behavior to start with. In our corner of the world, we use DIBELS and previous state test scores to get a feel for how a student is doing in reading. I use my own assessment in math for computation and problem solving. I like to let parents know how students are doing regarding completing and turning in homework, as well as how students are functioning behaviorally.

I included this Parent-Teacher Conference Form  as a template, but the important point is to have something to give to parents concerning how their child is doing regardless of what information you decide to include.

 They can feel intense, but these are simple tips you can start using now to ease the stress of Conference days!