Every year about Thanksgiving time, the parent conference occurs. I’ve been scheduling and hosting them for 14 years. These can be fluid and helpful to both parent and teacher but without this tip, they can be useless. You can offer positive parenting tips You may think you know the student very well because you have seen them every day in class since August.
Face the reality however that the parent knows them much better than you. In most cases, they were there with the child at birth. If you have kids of your own, you know the significance of the parent/child relationship. Even if you don’t have kids you can recall your relationship with your own parents. Should a teacher assume to know as much about one of their 25-35 students? I say no. It can be tempting to want to give educational tips for parents but remember a balance.
In my school, there is usually only one mandated conference and then peppered parent/teacher meetings as needed. I have always thought there should be at least three mandated conferences throughout the year and I always try to meet with parents regularly throughout the year. Unfortunately, the business of our culture doesn’t always make that possible.
Anything you can get from the parents about the student is valuable. Unfortunately, sometimes parents get silent in conferences, here are a few ways to encourage parents to talk about their child. Once they start talking, be sure and take note and/or just listen. Note: Most the time, parents will be hesitant at first to share. They will be skeptical so explain hos information about a child can greatly help you as you teach them in the year.
- Give the parent a short questionnaire. Just like the doctor’s office, put in some harmless questions about things you want to know to better serve their child. You should send this home before the conference and ask them to bring it. That way it doesn’t take up valuable conference time.
- LISTEN. Many parents respect the teacher as a part of their lives. Some don’t and others are reserving judgement. Use this time to show them respect. Encourage them to talk about their child. Don’t bring up anything. Ask them to share everything they think of about their child. I personally am a very bad listener but I plan to “shut up” and hear the parent before my part of the conference begins. How long to listen? As much as possible.
- Thank them profusely for sharing. Even if they only share the minimum, this will convey mutual respect and vulnerability. Don’t be afraid of silence, give them time to answer.
Of course parent conferences should include many things including your feedback on a child’s progress toward goals. You should also give teaching tips for parents if they seem to be open to it. Give feedback but remember the child is comparatively new to you so be more of a listener. In the long term, your ability to teach the child will greatly increase when you listen to parents about their child. Here’s a sample questionnaire you can use or modify to suit your needs (docx) format: Conference Questionnaire