3 Tips for Effective Parent-Teacher Conferences

The use of parent-teacher conferences is a great communication tool for educators and guardians to unite as a team for a child’s best interest.

The intent of the parent-teacher conference is for the teacher to share with the legal guardian what is occurring on a student’s daily learning journey. This might include talking in depth about academic strengths and weaknesses or maybe even behavior trends that need attention. It does not have to be a doom and gloom experience. In fact, it can be a celebratory event for progress made and expectant for the goals to be achieved in the future.

The hope is that the parent-teacher conference is not the only contact the teacher has with a child’s guardian during the school year, rather a time that is set aside for a more in-depth discussion about a child’s progress. This assumes the guardian and teacher have already established contact prior, maybe a quick introduction followed by niceties during pick up and drop off at school. Irregardless, a strong parent-teacher conference can make a positive school year experience for a student.

There are three action steps listed below that teachers can take before, during and after a parent-teacher conference to ensure it’s an effective use of time and energy.

Preparation is Key

There are some hesitancies around parent-teacher conferences for all parties involved. For teachers, it can be a lot of preparation to gather academic and behavior evidence to share with parents. As for parents, it can bring on bouts of anxiety, fearing the worst, not knowing what will be shared about their child. And lastly, for students, it can be scary knowing this conversation is going on about you and most times without you present.

Knowing those potential obstacles, teachers can ensure the parent-teacher conference is not only positive, but productive by preparing parents, students and themselves in very specific ways.

A thorough plan for how each stakeholder can prepare prior, during and after the conference ensures everyone’s expectations match the reality of the situation. No one needs to be worried, anxious or scared going into the experience.

Why & How Speak Volumes

Once everyone is prepared for the conference to occur, what happens during the conference is just as important. It easily can become a venting session for everyone where no solutions are created. This does not solidify a healthy working relationship between student, teacher and guardian. Of course, concerns should be shared, but the bulk of the conference should be about either 1) WHY things are occurring and HOW they can be fixed or 2) WHAT goals the student is going to achieve and HOW it will happen.

Guardians have an important role in the conference because they can share information with the teacher if anything is happening at home that might be contributing to concerns in the classroom, and the same is true in reverse. But, the “how” piece is of utmost importance so that both guardian and student know what to do once the conference is over. This means that whether or not the focus of the conference was on what needed to change or what was going to be achieved, a goal setting plan should be in place so that all stakeholders know what the child is going to be working on, where, when, how and how often. This turns the meeting into an actionable takeaway.

Keep the Conversation Going

A physical meeting might not be necessary going forward, but at least one thorough in-person conversation to touch base and establish expectations is a strong way to begin the collaboration process.

After the conference is over, it is important that all stakeholders continue working together throughout the school year. Guardians need to keep the teacher informed of progress and/or changes at home. Teachers need to share details about what is occurring in the classroom. And students need to ensure they contribute to the conversation on both sides so that information remains accurate, timely and positive. Weekly, monthly, or quarterly check-ins are encouraged.

The good news is that if teachers follow the three suggestions mentioned above for before, during, and after a parent-teacher conference, parental support, student achievement, and teacher effectiveness will all increase. Why? Because parents are now on board with the mission of the teacher and school since they have a better understanding of what is being expected of their child and what is actually occurring in the classroom. Students feel included and supported on their learning journey by both guardian and teacher. And teachers are willing to go above and beyond for all students now that they feel a strong team connection has been created between home and school.

What tips would you add for an effective parent-teacher conference?

About the author, Gretchen

I am a teacher trainer and coach. Working elbow to elbow with teachers and teacher leaders to ensure instructional proficiency and student achievement soar lights me up. We have a real need in our nation for strong educators to remain in the field. My blog, book, podcast, courses and instructional materials are geared towards empowering teachers (and those that lead them) to receive the support needed to grow and thrive today, tomorrow and always.