Researchers continue to underscore what common sense has always told us: Parental involvement (or lack of) impacts student success. Since spring parent-teacher conferences are approaching—what better a time to build parent-teacher partnerships?—we thought we’d offer 5 parent-teacher conference tips to make your meetings as painless and productive as possible.
Building a Partnership: 5 Parent-Teacher Conference Tips
Discuss progress and growth
Always start by highlighting the student’s successes—and remember that they can succeed in ways that transcend books and GPA. How does the student interact with peers? Has the student demonstrated leadership qualities? What do you (and his or her peers) appreciate about the student? How has the student grown over the last eight months? Use specific examples when you can.
In addition to this, make sure that parents understand the learning goals and have access to data that identifies areas in which the student could improve.
We may have spent the last eight months with our students, but parents have spent far longer with them—which means they know more about them than we ever will. Use parent-teacher conferences as an opportunity to listen and learn.
- What is the student like at home?
- How does she learn best?
- Do the parents have specific hopes and dreams for her?
- Does the student have aspirations that you might not know about?
- What did the student like about her last teacher? What didn’t she like?
- What learning strategies did this teacher use that worked well for the student?
Collaborate to find solutions
Parents know who is in charge, even if they don’t always agree with the way you run your classroom. Avoid telling parents what “they” should do. Instead, emphasize how “we” can collaborate to help the student improve and remain open to their suggestions.
Design a plan of action
Spend the last few minutes of your parent-teacher conference designing a plan of action with clear objectives. Write it down so that both you and the parents have a copy.
Stay in touch
Once you’ve created a plan of action, use it as a point of reference in progress reports and future meetings. And once a student has met or exceeded goals, continue to refine the plan. You don’t necessarily need to meet face to face to do this: Instead, try using Voxie Pro, an app that allows you to record CD-quality voice recordings on your phone and email them directly to the parents. To learn more about this, check out one of our recent blogs, Going Paperless: Podcasting Your Students’ Progress Reports.