I will never forget hosting my first set of Parent Teacher Conferences. I was so nervous, barely sleeping and having nightly nightmares about how it would go. I was just a little stressed, actually a WHOLE LOT stressed!
- What if they asked me questions and I couldn’t answer them?
- What if they were mad that their child wasn’t doing well and they blamed it all on me?
- What if I say the wrong thing?
To my complete amazement my conferences went amazing. I was saying things that I had no idea I had up in my head. The parents asked me all sorts of questions and I had no idea how I answered them, but it all sounded great, I left that first day on cloud nine. The rest of the week went just as well and by the end I was pretty confident and pleased with my teacher skills and my skills to think on the spot.
I am not sure how I skirted by that first round or the 2nd round, but I am pretty sure that God put the words in my head. I actually wrote down some of the things that I said after and was shocked that those words came out of my mouth.
Not all my conferences have been easy. I have let parents know that their child needs to be retained, that their child is not learning like the other children, that their child is in need of an IEP, that their child is a bully to the other children, and that their child is falling behind.
Being the person that tells another adult these words is beyond stressful, and you need to learn tactful ways to break it down. I plan for weeks on what I am going to say.
After many years of preparing for conferences I have come up with a routine that makes planning and delivering much easier, more organized and makes you sound like you actually know what your doing.
Here are 8 tips that I use to make Parent Teacher Conferences a breeze, well maybe not a breeze, but they go a lot smoother, they make you more prepared and ease the stress.
ONE: Start Preparing Early
I start preparing for conferences about 2-3 weeks before conferences begin. Why? It it included in all the reasons below. I also use a lot of this information for their report cards so I can kill two birds with one stone.
TWO: Behavior Assessment
Give a behavior Assessment.
This is an assessment that they do on themselves. If they can’t read you can read it aloud just like a test. I have the students rate themselves on a 1-4 rating (like our report cards), so they are familiar with the process.
- 4 Exceeding the teacher’s expectations. I do it ALL the time.
- 3 Right on target. I do it most of the time.
- 2 Not quite on target, but moving in that directions. I do it some of the time.
- 1 Below target, needs a lot of encouragement. I don’t do it at all.
What is on the behavior assessment?
I have included questions like:
- I walk quietly in line.
- I work quietly on my independent work.
- I get along with other kids on the playground.
- I am respectful to my classmates
- I complete my work with my best effort
- In group work I participate
Then under each question, they have to explain why they gave themselves a 4, 3, 2, or 1. Having to explain why makes them answer the question truthfully. If you have students that are not writing well, this would need to be dictated with an adult or older student.
The questions really make them think and some of their answers are interesting and gives a lot insight. Many of them admitted to talking in the hallway and knew they shouldn’t. It was total confession time for a few. I had to laugh. I notice that a few of them even change their behavior the next day. We even have a Virtual Version for my students who are only virtual.
At conferences, I will be sharing this with their parents to discuss their classroom and out of class behaviors. We all know that classroom behavior and academics go hand in hand and the two should be discussed together.
I had one student who refused to fill it out. That will be an interesting conference. He also had a very rough few weeks before conferences.
THREE: Highs and Lows or Glows and Grows and More
I also have the students fill out sheets on the areas they perceive as being high and low, they create some goals and fill out a question sheet on their friends, books they like, what they worry about, etc.
Reading about what these kids worry about makes my heart sad sometimes. But what insight I get!
These all lead to great talking points for parents!
FOUR : Assessments
The next step I took was to give some assessments that I was planning on giving for report cards. I break them down by standard for ELA and Math. I use ones that I was given from my school, but often times I will make them. There are some great ones on TPT, one day I will put the ones that I have made on there.
We also do a school wide reading test using Reading A-Z, which I really like. This is insight for me to have more talking points on academics and how the family at home can help more.
I use this information to help with report cards and I add it to the information on my conference template forms. See #5.
FIVE: Take Notes for a few weeks on Parent Conference Forms
I have a form that I fill out for each student. I jot notes on these for weeks. As various incidents come up, I write them on sticky notes and then at the end of the day I add to the student’s paper. Then I have various notes to use when I am writing up their forms and not having to think about past events.
On the sheet I also write the day and time of their conference, I include their reading test score (we take NWEA), math and language. It also includes their reading level. I have a section that I write down talking points on math, reading, writing, behavior and handwriting. This year I added an extra sheet that says, “How I can help at home”. I fill this out based on my data for each student.
SIX: Gather Materials to Send Home for Students
I always gather materials for parents to use at home. I always give out sight word lists, I give out websites that students can use at home, math worksheets to practice fluency, handwriting pages if needed, sight word practice ideas, anything that fits your “Ways I can help at Home” section.
Also, some of our students don’t have resources to practice at home. If I know this, I will put together a “Take Home” packet with pencils, crayons, 3 x 5 cards, sharpie, handwriting sheets inside sheet protectors, etc. This equips those students for more chances of success.
SEVEN: Find a long table or counter to organize all the papers
Next, I used my nice long counter that I have, and I lay out all the student’s folders in the order of the conferences. I pass out all the papers that I have been gathering on each student and set them on each file. Then I paperclip the main note sheet that has their day and time on top. I stack all the folders by day and time.
I then put these folders in a crate so once the family arrives, I can easily grab their folder, preview what I wrote and I am ready to go. Whew! If your interested in the templates that I use, you can click here.
EIGHT : Spoil Yourself when your all finished
Pick something to do at the end of conferences to treat yourself for all your hard work. It is nice to have something to look forward to.
- A Coffee Drink
- Dinner Out
- Pizza and Ice Cream
- A Special Treat
- Take a Day off of Teaching
- Get a Pedicure
- Do your nails
Good luck with those conferences!
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