Okay, the longest week of the year has arrived! I love parent teacher conferences, since it’s an opportunity to meet with parents and discuss their child. Sharing successes with parents is always fun. The downside to parent teacher conferences is the long day. We hold ours in the evenings, after a full day of school. It makes for one tired teacher by the end of the week!
As a parent and a teacher, I’ve spent many hours in parent teacher conferences (on both sides of the table). One thing I know is that it’s very helpful to have information to share with the parents. When I first started, no one prepared me for conferences. It was hard to know what to say to the parents. It felt very awkward to just share the grade their child had earned, with a smile and a nice compliment.
Over the years, I learned to create a progress report of skills to share with the parents. As a teacher, this gave me specific information to share with the parents. I was able to focus on the skills and topics we had been working on in class. Going over this information let parents see where their child was succeeding and where their child could work more.
As a parent, I noticed that at the elementary level, teachers tended to have this sort of report prepared for me at each conference. Once my children reached the secondary level (about 7th grade), teachers were sharing more about the number of assignments turned in and less about the skills my child had achieved.
This began to be a bit frustrating for me. I would sit, waiting to speak to a teacher for 30-45 minutes, only to be told, my child has an A and everything is fine. It seemed to me that if the teacher had a report prepared (similar to what the elementary teachers do), they would have more to share with me and we would both be able to use this time to better help my child.
While I am in no way implying that teachers are not doing their job, I have found that when we have this report prepared, conferences go much more smoothly. When I create the progress report, I try to look at skills and topics that I already have data for. This way, it’s a quick task to look up the data and fill out the report. I think it’s well worth the half hour or so filling out the form, since it makes the conference go so well.
At our building and level, we schedule conferences. This means that I meet with my homeroom students. Since we team, I don’t teach them math, science or social studies. This progress report allows me to discuss how the child is doing in other classes, even though I don’t teach them.
I also will often have students write a letter to their parents explaining how they think they are doing in class. The students are amazingly honest in these letters (often brutally so!) The parents enjoy seeing the letter written and are interested to hear what their child has to say about the work he or she is doing.
In the spring, we use a student led conference format, which is also highly successful. More on that next spring!
What do you do to prepare for conferences?