When I first started teaching, parent-teacher conferences used to terrify me, but as time went on, I really started to enjoy talking about my students’ progress with another person who was just as excited about their education as I was. Part of this came from years of experience, but part of it came from being prepared. Here are five things I do to prepare for parent-teacher conferences…
1. Start Planning Early
As teachers, we always know that it is good to be prepared. Usually, parent-teacher conferences are on the yearly calendar, so you can do things like create a form letter for parents or start to get a sampling of student work well before conferences begin. Sending parents a reminder three weeks to a month before can also be helpful, just in case parents need to take time off of work.
2. Schedule & Prepare
After hearing more information from your school, you can send an email a week and a half to two weeks before conferences for parents to sign up for times. I usually have parents sign up for a time frame, schedule and then give parents their specific time. When you email parents about their specific time, it is a good idea to inform them how long the conference will last and encourage them to come on time in order to get their full conference. After you have informed parents, you can start to set-up and collect any work samples or get together any data or materials you want to share at conferences. Make sure to also send related service providers, the case manager or staff who is able to translate your conference schedule.
Having an agenda is like having a lesson plan for conferences. This is something you could share with parents or just make it as a guide for you. I start with any school related policies that my administers want me to to pass along first in the conference, so I don’t forget to communicate that information to parents. Adding something like expectations from the beginning of the school year can also be helpful, as conferences are a good time to reset parent and teacher expectations. Click here for the Google Doc of the template pictured below. You can copy and paste the chart for each one of your students.
Depending on if you are doing conferences at home or in-person, setting up could look different. I usually set up the evening before or the morning of conferences. If I am in-person, I set up chairs outside the door and put a sign that says “Conference in Session” on the door. In the classroom, I set up my teaching table, organized with any papers I need to give to parents, my data, my computer and student work samples. If you are doing in-person conferences, follow the CDC guidelines that we have been following. If you are doing conferences remotely, you can probably make the set-up similar to remote teaching and make sure you have paper to take notes and any materials or student work samples that you may need.
5. Take Notes & Follow-Up
I take notes throughout the school day-during small groups, during IEP meetings and staff collaboration time. This really helps me to remember what was discussed and can be easily referenced for later. You can take notes directly on your agenda or on a separate piece of piece of paper, depending where you are having conferences and your preference.
Sending a follow-up email to the parent after conferences can be beneficial for multiple reasons. You can think of it like sending a thank you note after a job interview- it’s not required, but always a nice touch. Sending a follow-up can be helpful for accountability for both parents and teachers for what was discussed at conferences.