The ultimate goal of parent teacher conferences every school year is for parents and teachers to connect. And that means you need to have a plan and print out multiple conference sheets for teachers to guarantee you are prepared.
Knowing you have everything you need BEFORE the meeting will allow you to ask questions and design solutions that create an atmosphere of success for every child.
So we are going to unpack several aspects in order to ensure these are meaningful, helpful and stress-free conferences.
We are going to discuss…
- How to prepare for parent teacher conferences
- The “dos and don’ts” of parent teacher conferences
- Important parent teacher conference forms
- How to effectively follow up after the conferences
How to Prepare for Parent Teacher Conferences
Everyone wants to feel prepared when they go into a meeting, and these conferences are no different. If you aren’t prepared, you’re more likely to miss out on important information.
So I want to share the different things we can do as teachers to ensure successful parent-teacher conferences.
Give Parents Plenty of Notice
One of the most difficult things for parents with multiple kids (who might all simultaneously be in elementary school, middle school, and high school) is trying to be in multiple places at once.
Therefore, if all of the conference days and meeting times are at different locations, parents will struggle to be able to attend.
So start by giving parents ample time to add this meeting to their calendar.
Provide the main conference dates and then be willing to adjust times (as needed) if parents are trying to juggle multiple kids who all have conferences on the same night.
This will be a best way to guarantee greater family involvement not only in the grade level you are currently teaching but hopefully in the next parent-teacher conference as well.
Create an Agenda
As a teacher, you definitely need to know how to prepare for parent teacher conferences. And the first thing you need is an agenda of the topics you want to discuss with each parent.
This will help you stay on track and maximize the amount of conference time you can devote to each family.
Be sure to include anything relevant to the student (and that child’s progress) as well as upcoming events related to this particular season of school.
(By the way, I will share this free agenda with you in just a second.)
Some examples might include upcoming test dates, recent test scores, the current report card or relevant progress reports, additional meetings (IEP, behavior plan), school fundraisers, or picture day.
At the beginning of the meeting, consider providing parents with a copy of the agenda so they will have a “transcript” of the parent teacher conference to take home with them.
Offer an Incentive for Students
These meetings are critical for student success. So offering an incentive for students whose parents attend is a great way to make sure that we aren’t the only ones to invite parents.
When I offered a “no homework” pass to any student whose parent or guardian attended the parent conference, there was a LOT more interest.
If this is your first year and you are unsure how to get parents and guardians to come, a no homework pass is usually the ticket!
This benefits the student and the parent.
Now for those students with parents who will not come to the meetings, you can always offer alternative ways to connect.
These students can also receive a “no homework” pass if their guardian will set up either a phone call meeting or email you.
Obviously a phone call or an email isn’t optimal, but the key is developing a connection with your students’ parents/guardians. So take what you can get by getting your students involved!
Encourage Parents to Write Down Specific Questions
Honestly, these meetings can feel really intimidating as a parent. So, encourage parents to write down any questions they would like to ask you.
They can be as specific or general as you’d like them to be, but they must be relevant to their child.
Here are a few example questions you share that are perfect to ask during the parent conference…
- What is my child’s greatest strength?
- What is my child’s greatest weakness?
- What can I do to reinforce what he is learning at school?
- Is my child participating in class?
- Is he/she respectful to you and the other students?
- Is my child a contributing member of the class?
- Are there any issues in class that I need to know about?
Remember, this “question time” is a great opportunity for parents to figure out how to support their child at home.
Print out Your Free Conference Sheets for Teachers
Part of being prepared is printing out any relevant forms ahead of time.
And I have a bundle of free conference sheets for teachers that you can print BEFORE conference night. Simply grab your bundle by adding your email in the box below!
GRAB YOUR FREE
Conference Sheets for Teachers
This free conference sheets for teachers bundle includes…
- A conference agenda checklist (for you to make notes before and during the meeting)
- No homework passes for students
- A tip sheet (with many of these reminders)
- A parent-teacher conference worksheet (specifically for parents to complete)
- A sign in sheet for parents
The “Dos & Don’ts” of Parent Teacher Conferences
Now that you know how to prepare for parent teacher conferences, you need to know what to during the meeting itself.
Remember, time will be limited so stay focused and attentive throughout the conversation and make notes so you don’t forget anything discussed.
Help Parents Feel Welcome
Going into a parent teacher meeting is intimidating! But, in all reality, the parents are probably just as nervous as you are.
So to ease your own nerves, have your agenda already filled out with any applicable notes and work samples for each child. This will give you talking points and examples to show parents if you need them.
When the parents enter your classroom, stand up, say hello with a smile and eye contact, and shake hands.
Consider having water bottles or a little snack available for parents to enjoy during the meeting. This will help them feel more comfortable and naturally ease their nerves.
This is tricky as a teacher. It’s essential that we are honest with parents, but there are ways to be gentle when you have to share less than ideal information.
Start the conversation by sharing any special or funny moments involving their child. These anecdotes are always a welcome reprieve when you have to talk about difficult topics.
Then continue by making a compliment sandwich.
This simply means you start with an encouraging comment, followed by the negative information you have to share, and then completed with another encouraging thought or comment.
Consider this scenario.
A parent walks in and you immediately start talking about the struggles and issues their child is having. This is one of the quickest ways to put parents on the defensive.
Remember, the first thing you say sets the tone for the rest of the meeting, and I know you certainly don’t want to start off on the wrong foot.
So offer a genuine compliment about their child before talking about areas of concern.
Then end the conversation with the fact that you are so happy to have their child in your classroom and excited to see the progress she makes in 3rd grade.
Hearing the “bad” mixed in with the “good” will help parents accept the information much more readily.
Mention Any Changes You Have Noticed
If you’ve noticed changes in mood, behaviors, or attitudes at school, you need to mention these to the parent.
By sharing this information, your student’s parent or guardian may be able to shed some light on what is going on at home.
There could have been a recent death (of a family member, a friend, or a beloved pet), a divorce, the birth of a sibling, or even an accident.
These events can cause changes in behavior including…
- Excessive stress
These types of behaviors and emotions could be signs of issues that need to be addressed immediately.
Obviously part of being honest is answering questions, but if we want to answer questions we have to allow parents to ask questions.
Parents who ask questions are generally interested in helping their child reach his or her maximum potential.
But if we are so focused on our own agendas that we don’t give parents an opportunity to ask questions, we have missed out on a really good thing.
Consider building in at least 5 minutes for a question and answer session before ending the meeting.
Then when a parent asks you a specific question, give them a specific answer.
If you don’t have all of the answers to their questions, it’s perfectly ok to say, “I don’t know” and jot down the question (and even the parent’s email address) on your agenda checklist.
This will help you remember to circle back and send a follow up message to that parent.
Just be honest with the information you do know and then FIND OUT the answer to any question you can’t answer in the moment.
Actively Listen and Don’t Take Anything Personally
As a recovering people-pleaser, this is a really difficult one for me.
Most of us really want our students’ parents to like us, so we don’t want to say anything that could potentially upset them.
But the truth is, we have to be honest with parents if we want to help our students grow.
And that means that we need to be actively listening to what parents are saying during our conversation.
In other words, we need to be sure that we are actually hearing what the other individual is saying without adding any preconceived ideas or assumptions into the conversation.
Yes…this is a very difficult skill because we are fallible human beings.
But we have to prepare our minds and hearts ahead of time so that when a parent is discussing concerning gaps in their child’s learning or behaviors that have resulted from school interactions, we do not take it personally.
If you offer suggestions, be willing to ask follow up questions to gain more insight.
For example, let’s say you would prefer if Susie was more actively involved in classroom discussions because you know this will help her grow.
But the parent informs you that Susie is quiet by nature and has always had a hard time being involved in conversations with her peers.
This information is going to be super-helpful to you because it means you can facilitate discussions and provide prompts for Susie to help her get more involved in the conversations.
Parents usually know their children best.
So as long as they aren’t making excuses for their children, allow them to help you understand their children. This will create a much better atmosphere for learning.
After Parent Teacher Conferences
Create an Action Plan
While knowing how to prepare for parent teacher conferences and what to do during the meeting is essential, creating an action plan and following up with your students’ parents/guardians is another vitally important component of ongoing home and family involvement.
During the meeting, don’t just state the problems; offer solutions.
Parents may be shocked or overwhelmed when they hear what you have to say, so be gentle in your demeanor.
To show them you really care about their child, present them with well-thought out plans to solve some of the issues.
Yes, I said SOME of the issues!
Instead of solving all the problems, ask parents for their insight on what actions would ensure the best results for their child.
Asking for parental insight reminds them that you really do want their child to succeed, you value their opinion, and you genuinely desire to resolve the problems.
Then make sure to write down notes and reminders on your Agenda form (found in your free Conference sheets for teachers bundle) so nothing gets overlooked after the meeting ends.
Follow Up With Guardians
Be sure to thank each parent for coming at the end of the meeting and then follow up with an email or phone call within the week.
Respond to any questions parents asked that you were unable to answer at the parent teacher conferences.
And definitely inform them of any positive changes you have noticed in their child’s behavior since your meeting.
Ask the parents if they think any changes need to be made to the original goals you set in the action plan.
Then share your thoughts on this matter before making any necessary adjustments.
Finally, thank the parents for working with their children at home and let them know that their efforts are having a positive impact on their children’s academic success.
As teachers, we have the opportunity to create an amazing learning experience for each child by connecting with parents during conferences.
And now that you know how to prepare ahead of time (including printing your free conference sheets for teachers), what to do during the conferences, and how to follow up afterwards, you’re ready to tackle parent teacher conferences.
The truth is, we are on the same team as parents and the feedback we exchange provides valuable insight into how we should proceed with learning and discipline to maximize a child’s educational experience.