Parent-teacher conferences can be stressful for the teacher, the parents and even the student. But when approached in the right way, a parent-teacher conference will benefit all parties and lead to improved education. The point of the conference is to let parents know how their child is doing in school, both academically and socially. As a teacher, be prepared so that the meeting goes smoothly and you get across everything you want to talk about.
Schedule the parent-teacher conference, and make sure that it doesn’t conflict with other teachers’ scheduled conferences, because some parents have more than one child in the same school. Contact the student's family ahead of time to find out who will be attending the conference -- sometimes guardians or other relatives will be there in place of or in addition to the student’s parents. Confirm the scheduled meeting day, time and location with the parent, and let the parents know that they should bring a list of questions and concerns to the meeting. Get together all of the student’s work and files. Look over your current notes and make new ones, if necessary, about the student’s academic performance, social interactions, behavior and progress. Gather sample textbooks to show the parents.
Conducting the Conference
Meet with one set of parents at a time, and make sure that no other parents or students can listen in on the conference. Show parents academic information and go over the notes you have made about the student. Mention no more than three negative issues that you have with the student. Any more than three will discourage the parents, and ultimately the student won’t benefit. If serious issues need to be addressed, recommend that the parents and student set up a time to visit a guidance counselor. You can offer to set up the meeting for them as well. Ask the parents for feedback or questions. Mention the student's positive aspects as well.
Ending the Conference
Make sure that parents know you’re available for further conversation, and provide your work email address and work phone number. When the parents have left the room, write down some notes about the conference before the next set of parents come in.
Remember that the parents may be nervous. Help them to feel comfortable. One way to do this is to sit on the same side of a table with them instead of across from them.
As a full-time writer in New York's Hudson Valley, Lindsay Pietroluongo's nightlife column and photos have appeared regularly in the "Poughkeepsie Journal" since 2007. Additional publications include "Chronogram," the "New Paltz Sojourn," "About Town" newspaper and "Outsider" magazine. Pietroluongo graduated from Marist College with a B.A. in English.