On conference day, organization and preparedness are going to be your best friend. As a conference is scheduled, set up a folder for each student which includes a current copy of the student’s grades, a log of any contacts you made with the parents, and some artifacts which can show some “glows” and “grows”. Many buildings also have a conference form which provides a place for notes and a follow-up plan with action steps for the teacher, parent, and student. Having a printed agenda to follow can also help keep things running on time. In addition, take some time to make sure your classroom is well organized, and that there is a comfortable place for parents to wait outside.
The meeting space in the classroom should also be comfortable for the parents. While a round table is best, a few desks pushed together works just fine. Just avoid sitting at your desk while your parents are sitting at desks which are way too small for them!
When the conference begins, be sure to greet your parents warmly, introduce yourself, and ask them to have a seat. Take a moment to review the agenda, remind them of the timeframe, but also be sure to inform them follow up at a later date can be scheduled if needed.
Once introductions take place, go down the agenda; reviewing grades, sharing artifacts, and providing recommendations and suggestions supportive of learning. The most important thing to remember is to make sure the parents feel they are part of the team. It should be a two-way conversation. Ask questions, get their input, address their concerns. At the end, fill out the conference form, and inform parents a copy will be sent home the next day.
There will be times when conferences don’t go as well. If you anticipate this, ask your building administrator to sit in. If you feel things didn’t go well, reach out to follow-up or schedule another conference, with an administrator if needed.
Parents can be your greatest allies in education. If they feel included in their child’s learning, the sky’s the limit when it comes to academic success.