Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Parent-Teacher Conferences: 6 Things Parents Want You to Know

For longer that I really want to admit to, I have been a teacher and a parent.  Yes, I am that old!  I have had over 20 years experience of being on both sides of the proverbial desk. And yet despite that experience, I still get a little bit nervous about attending my child's first parent-teacher conference of the year. And I know that I am not alone, as I have heard many other parents express the same thing.

As I prepare to attend my middle son's conference next week, I started thinking about what parents, whether or not they are also teachers, want teachers to know.  

6 Tips For a Great Conference: A Parent's Point of View

1.  Parents are sometimes a little anxious about sitting down to chat with the teacher even if our child is doing well academically and socially.  As a parent to a child that struggled in elementary school with social and behavior issues, my anxiousness was magnified.  As a way to break the ice, share with us three positives about our child at the beginning of the conference.  

2.  If you are able to, send home a pre-conference question sheet the week or so before the conference.  Designate a place for parents to ask questions and to share concerns about the curriculum or the child's progress, or to share issues at home that may affect the child's attitude, behavior, or learning at school. This response sheet will help you plan the meeting to address the parent concerns.  In addition, if you run out of time, you will have a written update from the parent that notifies you of important changes. Parents want teachers to know that sometimes we get overwhelmed and forget to share information with you or we forget to ask specific questions during the actual conference.  It doesn't have to be fancy and can consist of a small list of open-ended questions.

3. Of course every parent wants to hear the good stuff about their kids, but they also want to know the negative stuff and they don't want it sugar-coated.  At least this parent doesn't want it sugar-coated. Sure, some of us may get defensive, but behind that initial reaction is a parent that wants to know what we can do at home to help our child be successful at school.  If I have a child that is excelling in all areas, give me ideas of what I can do at home to challenge him.

4.  We do value your assignments and expectations, but sometimes life gets in the way. We forget to sign the reader's log, sign the progress report, or complete the field trip slip.  And they aren't excuses... for many of us, we are doing the best that we can under our circumstances. Other times, we are allowing our child to take responsibility and face natural consequences if the work is not completed. But, but please do not take away my child's or any child's recess as a consequence and punishment. As the mother to three boys, I can tell you that this only creates more problems in the classroom if my active little one is not able to take a break that his brain and body needs. As a teacher, I was an advocate for this as well.  Have them stay after school, miss part of a fun activity, contact me at home, or give them a zero on the assignment.

5.  Show us samples of work that has been completed in class.  I realize and completely understand why some work (especially writing) cannot be sent home.  Select a few pieces that showcase their work across the content areas including written projects, journals, and group work.

6.  And lastly, we want you to know that we respect you and are often times in complete awe as to how you do what you do- all with a smile on your face and having what appears to be the patience of Job.  And most likely, we will forget to tell you, but that doesn't mean that we are unappreciative. This parent has made it a priority this year to encourage my son's teacher and to tell him what an amazing job I think he is doing.  And because I will most likely forget to tell him next week at our conference, I will send him a handwritten note or an email.

I'm linking up with HoJo's Teaching Adventures.  Click the pic below to visit her site to find more elementary blog posts and helpful resources!

Do you have additional tips to share?  Please leave a comment!

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  1. This such a great post. I am beginning to plan for teacher conferences now and this is so helpful. I have been working on and developing ideas for how to maximize conference attendance. We have really low attendance of Spanish speaking families at our school and we're all working hard to improve that. Thank you, again for this thoughtful post!

    Teaching with Hope

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Hope, and for your sweet words! In my experience, low attendance sometimes meant that parents felt apprehensive about meeting with the teacher 1:1. I don't have experience with a great number of parents that were non-English speaking, but I did have many parents that were illiterate. I found that making several positive phone calls home early in the year helped them to feel at ease and more comfortable with eventually meeting with me. I wish you all the best! Lauren

  3. Love these tips! As someone who only taught when I did not have children, this post would have been extremely helpful a few years ago. I'm sure it's going to help many other teachers out as well! Thank you for taking the time to link up with Teaching Tuesday link up party. I hope to see you back each week!
    ~Heather aka HoJo~


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