Parent Teacher Conferences should be renamed Family Teacher Conferences since more and more students are being raised by grandparents, aunts, uncles, and older siblings. Regardless of the name, conferences are an important component of the school to home connection. The family and the teacher can sit down and truly discuss the student’s progress, celebrations, concerns, and goals.
Parent Teacher Conferences or Family Teacher Conferences
Teachers need to be prepared for conferences. A report card is not enough information for families to truly understand how their student is performing. Student samples, assessments, and other bodies of evidence is very helpful in sharing how the student is performing. It lets the family see first-hand the type of work the student is required to do. It also allows the family to see the areas of strength and the areas of need.
Teachers could prepare by having resources available that show what the grade level expectations are and where the student is performing. For example, have guided reading books available to share with the families. Show the family the on-level text and the level at which the student is reading. A family deserves to know how their student is doing compared to the grade level expectations.
Whether the conference is student-led or teacher-led, a student should know what the conference is going to look like and sound like ahead of time. Since it is the student’s information, nothing should be a surprise. Teachers should try to make time to visit with each student about his or her progress, goals, and concerns.
Student-led conferences are a great way to get students involved and hold them accountable for their own progress in school. If you have students lead the conferences, it is important that the students know what it means to be student-led. Model and practice with students what you expect to happen during the conference.
A time should be scheduled that works for both you and the family. Remind the family the day of or the day before of the scheduled time. I usually send a “Good Job Postcard” home the week before the conference to let the family know of something the student did well in class. On the postcard I put the date and time of the conference. In many households postcards usually go on the refrigerator or board and serve as a reminder. These postcards have really helped with attendance.
When setting up for the conference, set enough chairs for several people that way if the grandparents or siblings come along there is enough room for everybody. Also try to have activities for younger siblings so that the family can visit with you without worrying about what the children are doing. Provide writing utensils and sticky notes or note cards for a family to take notes.
The classroom and the teacher should be welcoming. As the teacher you should remove any barriers that separate you from the family. At the beginning of the conference, thank the family for coming and begin with a positive comment or story.
Before the family leaves, make sure their questions or concerns have been addressed. Also provide the family with ideas to support their student at home. A pre-created list of helpful tips could be printed out or a more specific list for individual students based on their data could be created. Some assessments already do that for you.
Surveys are a great way to get feedback from the conference. The family could complete them prior to leaving or the teacher could provide an envelope that can be used to return the survey.
The Family Teacher conference is an important component of the school and home connection. It should be both inviting and informative!
About the Author
Diana Remick is a 2nd grade teacher at La Junta Primary School and has been teaching for 18+ years. She received both her BA and her MA from Adams State University in Alamosa, Colorado. Mrs. Remick values her relationships with her students and their families.