By Teachers, For Teachers
Parent-teacher conferences can only go two ways: Good or bad. If you want to make sure that all of your conferences are a success, then you must follow these five classroom management tips. From what to do before the conference to where to seat the parents and how to talk to them, we have the classroom management tips and tricks that help your meeting go smoothly.
Parent-teacher conferences do not begin when the parent enters the doorway to the classroom, they begin long before. Many teachers like to start planning for them on the day of the open house (or as some call it, back-to-school night). This is the day when parents come into the classroom and meet you for the first time. This is a great time to leave a sign-up sheet out for parents to choose when they are available to meet for conferences. Open house is usually within a few weeks to a month from when school begins, and parent-teacher conferences are usually not until about three to four months after school has started. So this gives the parent an ample amount of time to set a date, and be available.
Once the date is set, then it’s time to plan for the conference. Start by setting aside students’ important papers throughout the months in a special folder to show the parents. This can be work that is exceptional or work that needs more practice. Then, about two weeks prior to the actual conference, send home a parent questionnaire to find out any questions or concerns the parents have that you can prepare for. You can ask questions such as:
You can also give your students a questionnaire to see how they feel they are doing, which can be a great conversation starter at the conference.
Create a welcoming environment by hanging fun projects outside of the classroom where the parents are waiting. Place a table and a few chairs along with a few books, educational articles, and refreshments. In the classroom, have a take-home folder ready for the parents filled with their child’s work, as well as any tips or educational information that you can provide for them. Make sure your classroom is filled with fun visual projects and pictures of the students working. Another fun idea is to surprise your students by asking the parent to write a word of encouragement on a sticky note and place it on their child’s desk.
Teachers have been using the “Sandwich technique” to discuss their students with parents for decades. The way this technique works is that you start out with a compliment about the student, then sandwich in what the child can improve upon, and end it with another compliment. For example, “Reesa has been working really hard on her math facts. She has been working to increase her minute math test. With her dedication and some more practice she will reach her goal soon.” You can also start the conference with something that you love about the student, or something that they are doing very well. Then you can move on to what they need to improve upon, then finish it up with a positive message about the child. Make sure that your final words are positive ones. This way you will increase the chances for a solid, open relationship with the parents.
Meet and greet each parent at the doorway with a warm smile and a handshake. Even if you know that the parent has a lot of concerns and is not happy, you always have to be respectful. If during the conference you feel the parent is being disrespectful to you, always maintain your composure and be the bigger person. End your conference by walking the parents to the door, shaking their hand, and thanking them for taking the time to discuss their child with you.
The first thing that the parent sees upon entering the classroom is you. When you dress for success, you make a good impression. If you are a woman and you wear a low-cut top to the conference, the take-away from that parent is that they were distracted from your top, not how their child needs to improve their math facts. To maintain respect and credibility, dress appropriately and you will make a good impression on the parents.
By planning ahead, creating a welcoming environment, knowing how to talk about your students, showing the parents respect, and dressing appropriately, you can ensure that your parent-teacher conference will run smoothly.
Do you have classroom management tips or suggestions on parent-teacher conferences? Please share your thoughts and expertise in the comment section below, we would love to hear what you do in your classroom.
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.