I remember in the early days of my teaching career, parent conferences felt very stressful. I would overthink what I was wearing, what I was saying, the way our classroom looked, even the way I shook a parent’s hand as they entered. These worries slowly faded as I gained more experience and learned valuable lessons that helped with parent conference anxiety. Throughout the years, I came to really enjoy parent conferences and the bonding that happened during these meetings. This time of year, many teachers may be feeling this familiar pressure, so we are sharing our favorite tips for a stress free parent conference season!
In order for conferences to run smoothly, it is essential to prepare ahead of time – trust me, you will be thankful you did! Parent conferences are a great opportunity to share everything you have noticed in the classroom. Oftentimes, when you are in the moment it can be difficult to remember everything you want to say. A conference form to refer to during your time with parents ensures that you communicate everything you would like to say and helps keep a meeting timeline. The conference form is also a great resource to send home with parents so they remember what was discussed. Be sure you make a copy of the conference form for them to keep!
“SANDWICH” YOUR COMMENTS
Honesty is important when communicating with parents. They want to know how they can help their child succeed. Remember – you are on the same team and you both want the best for their child. Remember to communicate honestly, but also with empathy. Sometimes what you have to say can be difficult for parents to hear. Presenting information in a kindhearted manner will help your conference to run smoothly and will hopefully create a safe environment for parents to share and receive information openly. When presenting information to parents during conferences, I like to “sandwich” my comments. I would present their child’s strengths and positive behaviors I have noticed, then discuss their weaknesses that we will continue to work on. Finally, I would end on another positive note. This ensures that important topics are being discussed, but parents are not overwhelmed with critics.
Pro Tip: Send home some items for parents to help their child at home. This can help you bond as partners together! Fluency and Fitness is a great resource that you can use in the classroom AND parents can use at home to help their child.
You will want to take notes during your meeting. Parents will often share insightful information that could help you with a student in the classroom or a parent may have a question that you need to find an answer to before following up with them. Your head may be spinning after several conferences in a row, so taking notes will help you to follow up best!
Ending a conference can feel a little awkward sometimes. If another parent is waiting and you’re still speaking with a family, it can be a little frazzling. When parents arrive, be upfront about how much time you have together so they have an expectation from the beginning. Go through your conference form and allow plenty of time for questions at the end. It is even helpful to give a five minute warning before the next conference. This may sound like: “It looks like we have around five minutes left before my next conference arrives, I want to be sure we have discussed everything that is on your mind. Do you have any questions or concerns before we say goodbye today?” Now parents have a reminder that time is running short, but you have also opened the door for any left over thoughts so they feel heard.
One small thing that I noticed made a big difference is a follow up. This can be a note in student folders or a short email simply thanking parents for your time together, restating the positives from your meeting as well as the items that you will be working on with their child going forward. If the parent had any questions that you wanted to check on before responding, this is where you can answer those questions. The follow up is easy, but essential in a positive parent conference experience.