Now that school's been in session for a few months, students and teachers know each other well. Teachers have enough data on their students to provide an initial assessment on how well they are doing. With notes, action plans, and data in hand, here are some tips that will help
1. Send invitations--and reminders. You can send creative invites 3 - 4 weeks or so in advance, followed by reminders the week and two days prior. Make sure the invite's words are inviting and warm. Sending reminders a few days ahead of time allows caregivers to confirm the appointment time or reschedule if necessary. Assure caregivers that if they are unable to make it personally that meeting with any adult responsible for caring for the child will be beneficial, should they have the proper permissions from the primary caregiver to do so.
2. Have student work samples or portfolio. Parents want to see their child's progress, so have the work for the period availabe for review. Make sure it is gradeded and any comments are visible. Students shoud get used to the organization of the portfolio and can present their work and status to their parents.
3. Have multiple days and times available. This is espeically true for caregivers who work multiple jobs or hours not corresponding to school hours. Giving caregivers a range to schedule their conferences helps them to feel in control of their child's academic success as well as allows teachers to organize and plan their conference days. Though some school systems offer student-free days for parent conferences, if this is not available, having multiple times also keeps you from getting burned out and overwhelmed with having so many meetings back to back.
4. Don't be afraid to use unconventional means. If a parent cannot physically attend, you can still have a phone conference or use a variety of electronic communication means. Today's technological advances help increase accessibility to conducting conferencing.
5. If at all--or appropriate--have students involved in the process. When I was in the classroom on a regular basis, students actually conducted most of the presentation. By showing them their porfolios during student conferencing and explaining to them how to assess their own learning, it made it easier for them to then explain this to their parents.
6. For conferences requiring additional support, arrange those in advance and inform the caregiver. Interpreters, education support professionals such as special educators and paraprofessionals, and other community experts may have important information that the caregiver needs to know in order to make the best decisions for their child. Though coordinating schedules can be challenging, the more available to provide support to the caregiver and the child, the better results conferencing can have.
These tips should help you have productive, successful conferences with families. This is just one avenue to build a strong rapport with the caregivers as well as support the overall learning process of the student. Do you have any additional tips for parent-teacher conferences? We'd like to know!