10 Tips To Ensure Stress Free Parent Teacher Conferences
Parent teacher conference are one of those events that are good and bad. Good that teachers and parents get to sit face to face and talk about the one thing they have in common. A child.
Bad because as a teacher it’s an extra heaping of stress, paperwork, time, and did I mention stress. Bad for parents because guess what it’s way stressful for them too.
Here are 10 tips to make the parent teacher conference time productive, friendly, and most importantly a key element in an excellent education.
Tip 1- Mood Lighting
Conferences are usually conducted in the classroom. When parents walk in it is your job to make them feel as comfortable as possible.
To accomplish this you need to bring some comfort into your classroom. One way is with lighting. Who likes fluorescent lights?… Oh, I see no one has their hands up… That’s because they are HORRIBLE, awful and harsh.
Turn off the overhead fluorescent lights. Bring in a few lamps. The right kind of lighting is the best way to set a mood. Your students will like the lighting as well. I could go on and on about lighting in the classroom but trust me…. Get yourself down to the Goodwill and get yourself an UGLY lamp or two.
Tip 2- Music
Some calm, barely audible music playing in the background is a mood setter too. I like piano music and I like to make it juuuuuust so it can barely be heard. It sets a calm atmosphere and is very welcoming.
Tip 3- Smile
This is tough… You’ve probably been teaching all day or it’s your 100th conference in a row…. But….there’s something magical about a smile. It makes you approachable, likable, and trustworthy. So smile – through the entire conference- you can do it.
Tip 4- A Good Handshake
This is like the smile all over again. A handshake as the parent enters your classroom is an automatic sign of friendliness and solidarity. You also get to have a personal touch which is scientifically proven to put people at ease.
Make sure your handshake is good. Not too hard and not too soft. We all know how body language sets the stage for positive interactions.
Tip 5- Excellent Eye Contact
This is the smile and good handshake idea coming at you again. Good eye contact lets the parents know that you are confident, professional and friendly. You can be trusted and you have nothing to hide.
Plus… If you have good eye contact you are able to “read” the situation better. You will be able to see any signs of stress or aggravation in a parent. You will be able to press a delicate issue or lay off.
Tip 6- Serve a Positivity Sandwich
Positive, Grow, Positive -I call it a “Positivity Sandwich”. If I have an area of concern for a student I always start with something positive then go into the area of concern then back to a positive. Sometimes, I’ll even end with two positives.
Tip 7- Address Areas Of Concern by Telling How They are Getting Better
You are in the middle of the “Positivity Sandwich” and you are addressing the concern. Now is the time to have an impressive amount of tack and grace. When parents are confronted with concerns they are stressed. It’s bad news and they need to know immediately how you are handling the situation. Unloading on the parent about how there kid is not performing is the WORST idea. I know you’d never do it but here’s what you do need to do.
State the concern with tacked and grace and then go immediately into telling how the student is making progress on this concern or how you have set up a plan to make sure that the student will overcome the concern.
(I’m going to give you a little tough love here.) If this is a big problem then you better have spoken with them before the 15 minute parent teacher conference. You CANNOT drop big issues on parents during parent teacher conferences. They get mad. They should get mad.
Tip 8- Student Self Eval
Student self-evaluations are an essential part of a parent/teacher conference. These are great to pull out and give to parents. Often a student self-evaluation tells more about the whole child than a report card or test score. I’ve made you a student self-evaluation. It would be great for K-2. For the older students I would have them also write something that they enjoy about school and something that they are working on in school.
I always remind students that we are ALL working on something. Often I will have parents say. “Johnny says that school is too easy… He isn’t learning anything.” That’s when I say, “It’s true he is doing great with his academics. Here on his self evaluation he says he is working on completing his work neatly and being friendly and patient with his friends.” Then I say something like…. “I’ve seen an improvement in his neatness but he is still working on keeping himself organized without me prompting him. He’s doing great with his academics but that life skill of staying organized is pretty tough. That’s his hard thing… We will continue to work on it at school along with challenging him academically.”
Bam!!!! 25 years in the classroom and that’s what I can come up for you. Pretty good and when you put your own loveliness into it, it will be fantastic. Oh, and if you haven’t already discovered it… the students Self-Eval is one of your freebies today… Stick around for a second freebie.
Tip 9- Mention Something You Are Doing Just For Their Child
This is powerful. Your relationship with your students is special and strong and like no other. Whether you know it or not you are connecting in a special and unique way with each of your students. Have you asked them about a sport or hobby? Do you give them extra hugs? Do you play a song that they like? Read a book that they enjoy? Let them be in a group with their friend? Let them have a special job? Let them use a special pencil? etc.
This is the time when you share with parents how you “know” their child. Tell them a little story or say “Jessie says he/she is having a ballet recital. How long has /heshe been in ballet?” or “Jessie loves talking about fortnite. I let him/her write about it the other day when everyone else was writing about pumpkins.”
Just letting parents know that you are interested in their child is powerful. Don’t forget this step and if you haven’t made some sort of unique and special connection with a student… get busy… it’s never too late to start.
Tip 10- End with This Statement
It’s the end of the conference and you need to get those parents out of your room. You have been so ding-dang nice that they are now your besties and they want to hang out and chat….. (“Oh, great!!” You think… “These people are never going to leave. How can I be gracious and get them out?)
Here’s what you do…
Even if they are in mid sentence you nonchalantly look at the clock and then you give an audible and somewhat dramatic gasp.
Then you say. “Yikes, I’ve got to get you out of here and start my next conference. I can’t get behind schedule.”
Then you walk out your classroom door and into the hall where the other parents are waiting.
Then you say to the parents that are exiting…
“Thank you for coming. If you get home and you think of some more that you’d like to talk about, write it down and then give me a call. We can either do a face to face or talk on the phone…. Whatever is best for you.”
Then you look at the waiting parents… smile… and shake their hand and it all starts again.
Yah, Good job…. Ummm, you should sell tickets because… “YOU ARE A ROCK STAR!!!”
Use a timer and make it visible to everyone. I know it might seem a little rude but so is making another parent wait in the hallway. I’ve found that when you tell them you are going to use a timer but if they’d like they can always schedule and additional conference. They really appreciate it and respect the time constraints.
Here’s a surprise freebie for you….
A parent letter you can send home a few nights before conferences. It lets them know what to expect and how they can prepare for the meeting. Remember, they are way more nervous about this than you are.
Until next time…
Now go be your amazing self. You are a blessing and a treasure.
Comment below on your favorite Parent/Teacher Conference tip.
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