Tips and Printables for Terrific and Stress Free Parent Teacher Conferences

Last week was our school’s week for Parent-Teacher Conferences!  I may be alone in this- but I love conference time!  Yes, it’s a LOT of work – especially for 30 kiddos!- but I love meeting all of the parents and finally feeling like we are all on the same page!  Over the years I have created some Go-To forms for managing conferences, as well as some fun signs and even an activity for parents who are patiently waiting in the hallway. 🙂
I decided to compile all of my resources into one Complete Conference Pack that you can get in my TPT store.

But here, I’d like to share with you my favorite conference tips (also included in the Complete Conference Pack!).

My Tips for Terrific Parent Teacher Conferences!

1. Create a Conference Folder for each student
Conference Folders create a place to keep everything organized and in order for each student’s conference.  Send folders home with parents after conferences so that they have something tangible to take away with them. I like to use durable folders with clear pockets on the front like these:
They are a little pricier than your average paper folder so I ask that parents send the empty folder back so that I can reuse it the following year. I love that they have a clear pocket so that I can slip a cute cover with the student’s name on it in the front. I included a cover in my conference pack.
Ideas for folder contents:
oCompleted Conference Documentation Form
oCompleted Student Self-Evaluation form
oSamples of student work
oStudent Report Card
oStudent RTI plan (if applicable)
oState Testing information and/or student test results
oEducational Website addresses and login information (if your school has a subscription to any specific websites)
oTeacher Contact Information
2. Make a Great First Impression
Research has shown that within the first 15 seconds of meeting someone, they have formed an opinion about you or the meeting.  First impressions are strong, and are hard to change.  Make a memorable first impression by:
oMaking immediate eye contact
oMove toward the parent –  meet them at the door
oGreet them by name and invite them in

Your classroom is also an expression of who you are and your teaching style.  A messy classroom could convey they you are unorganized.  Prepare ahead of time by spending a few extra minutes organizing your desk area and moving extra ‘piles’ to the closet!  Plug in a Scentsy or Glade with a calming fragrance, like Vanilla Lavender. Put up student artwork to brighten your walls. Play soft classical music in the background. Dress in your most professional teaching outfit. All of these little things will make a big difference.

 3. Prepare a Conference Area
Too often, parents at conferences are sitting in child size chairs directly across from their child’s teacher.  Instead, create an arrange-
ment where you are sitting next to, or “kiddy-corner” to the parents.  This conveys the message that you are all working together.  Borrow some adult size chairs for conference day. Be sure to have these items on hand for easy reach or referral at your conference area:
oGrade book
oStandardized Test ‘Cut-Scores’
oSchool and Class Calendar
oConference Schedule Tracking Sheet
oStudent Conference Folders
4. Show that you care
Parents don’t care what we know, until they know that we care!  Many parents come to conferences in an emotional state- with fear or anger, depending on their child’s past experiences in school or their own personal school experiences.  Follow the steps below to show parents that you care, and help them go from an “emotional state” to a “thinking state”. {Source: Jim Fay, Love and Logic}
1.Listen with empathy- Start by asking parents “What are your thoughts?” “What does your child say about school?”
2.Restate what the parent has said- Take notes on your Conference Documentation Form, then use statements such as “It sounds like you’re saying/feeling…”
3.Check to see if parent is in ‘thinking state’- “We have a lot of options available to meet this need.  Would you like to brainstorm together…” or “I have some thoughts on this.  Would you like to hear them?”
4.Problem Solve- Move parent from defensive position into problem-solving. Use statements such as “What have you tried?” “How did that work?” “Would you be willing to try ___ at home?”
Ultimately, HOW you say something is more important than WHAT you say! Remember, 93% of communication is non-verbal.  
5. Give Constructive Feedback
Although it’s not always easy, its important to be honest with parents about their child’s progress and behavior.  The best way to do this is to present concerns without judgments.  For example, instead of saying “Sarah is loud and noisy”, say “Sarah has difficulty working quietly.  She can improve this by __ …”. Don’t minimize a problem by saying “There is a small problem”. Be up front about the gravity of a situation.
For every statement of need that you make, (“John needs to improve in…”, “I need you to work with John at home…”), be prepared to give a specific course of action that you are taking at school, or that parents can take at home to meet this need.
6. Notify parents of major concerns before conference time
If conferences are the first time that a parent is hearing of a major behavior problem, or that their child is seriously struggling, chances are that they will be upset that they weren’t notified earlier.  Conferences are not a time to ‘surprise’ parents with this kind of information.  Instead, notify parents of major concerns earlier in the year via phone or email, or send a note with the conference request letter outlining the specific concerns that will be addressed during the conference.
7. End on a positive note
End each conference the way you began- with a positive statement that leaves parents knowing how much you care about their child’s success.
Happy Conferencing!

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