By Teachers, For Teachers
Does thinking about the end of the grading quarter leave you dreading the impending parent teacher conferences?
Many teachers will be scrambling to get those final assessments in before the end of the marking period, double-checking report cards, and printing off reports in an effort to pull together a quick snapshot of each child’s progress since the beginning of the school year.
Then, they will be expected to present this information to the parent in a quick 15-minute time slot, while dealing with running siblings, parents that are late then want to stay to chat forever, and no-shows who don’t bother to take the time to call to cancel. It's no wonder this time of year is so stressful for teachers everywhere!
Perhaps these tips can help ease the stress over parent teacher conferences.
If you prepare your materials well beforehand of the conference, you will feel far more in control of the situation when the families start showing up at your classroom door.
Make a list of the must-have items your will show and give to your parents during the conference. Obviously, with only 10-15 minutes, you will not have much time to go through more than 3-5 documents, so choose them wisely.
Have Students Help with Folders
Once you decide what items you will show the parents, put them in the order you will talk about each in a folder made of a large 12 x 18 piece of construction paper that has been folded in half. You can also include student work from the quarter for parents to take home. The students can even decorate their paper folder the day before their conference with their name.
Place the items you are going to discuss right at the top of the stack, that way when the parents sit down, you can grab the folder and talk about the main information you want to share.
If you expect that not everyone will show, then you won’ t be disappointed if everyone does not show. Having a plan in place before it actually happens makes a no- show much more bearable.
If you already know that the student will do a student-led conference at home, or that you have a day next week open to call all the parents who did not come, then you will still feel like you are on top of things.
A great tip a fellow teacher shared with me recently was that she also does Skype conferences for those parents that are too far away, don’t have a sitter, or do not have adequate transportation.
Conference via Skype
She set up a teacher account separately from her personal account (you don’t really want students to have your personal information for any reason), and she calls them via her computer straight to theirs!
You can even video chat one-to-one if you both have webcams! As close to the real thing without actually being there.
If you have parents that have not confirmed, you might want to check into this option because perhaps they would feel more comfortable doing the conference from their own home base.
Set the Tone in Your Classroom
A few classroom environment ideas to make your families (and you in return) also more comfortable during the evening of conferences include small things that can really make a difference.
First, make sure you have some adult-sized chairs, if you can get your hands on them. Expecting mom or dad to sit in a miniature Kindergarten chair that may be all you have on a day-to-day basis, but it will be duly noted should you go the extra step to grab some folding chairs from the storage room.
Another quick tip is to play soft classical music in the background. Not too loud to be distracting, but just loud enough that it breaks up the silence of only voices in a room. The key here is to make your guests feel welcome.
Lastly, make sure you have some fun, quiet activities for visiting siblings to do while you are talking with the families. It makes it tough to have a serious conversation about learning when younger brothers and sisters are trashing your manipulatives area.
But, if you place out a few quiet activities, such as puzzles, sorting cards, or even turn on the student computers, siblings will be so occupied, they won’t want to leave when time is up!
Teachers, Treat Yourself
After your parent teacher conferences are done, make sure to treat yourself to a little relaxing and pampering for a job well done!
Maybe a night out for just dessert, a manicure, or whatever little something you would not normally take the time to have for yourself. Do whatever it is and enjoy it. You deserve it for a job well done!
What tips do you have for surviving parent teacher conferences? Share in the comments section!