Parent Teacher Conferences
Anyone else out there groan when they hear these words? I found myself dreading parent teacher conferences a few years back and started working on ways to make them a better experience for everyone involved. Now rather than dreading them, I’m excited to talk to parents about student growth and goals moving forward. Here’s my tips for flawless parent teacher conferences.
Have a plan in place.
Just like an IEP meeting, talk to the team who will be present at the conferences ahead of time. Consulting with your team should be done regularly, but it’s especially important when discussing progress. Make sure have a plan for what everyone will cover so you can use your time wisely. Depending on how you schedule your conferences, you may have very little time to cover a ton of information. Make every minute count.
Also, don’t forget to include the general education teacher! Even if they only see your shared student at pick up and drop off of specials or lunch, have them be a part of the conversation. There’s a reason general education teachers are part of an IEP team. Make this part of them plan for conferences, too!
Have your Student Shine
In IEP meetings we focus on deficits so much it can hurt. Parent teacher conferences are the perfect opportunity to let students shine and share everything that you love about them. Don’t hold back – let the parents know just how much you care about the student and how proud of them you are. Have examples ready to share!
Use the Sandwich Method for Tough Topics
I’m a huge proponent of using the sandwich method for delivering tough information. Start with something that’s good, put a piece of difficult information in the middle, and end with something positive. Use this as a blueprint for your conferences. Start with things you see that are positives in the student. Next, move to things you want the student to improve on or difficulties the student may have. Discuss how you are going to help the student move towards improving those difficult areas and get parent and team input. Finally, wrap up with more positives. I use this worksheet to help me out when planning conferences and to stay on topic. Want a copy for your conferences? Grab it HERE for free.
Bring the DATA!
Examples, behavior data, ABA program data, whatever data you have be ready to share it if it’s relevant. For my conferences, I come with my data binders ready to go. These include a copy of the IEP, ABA progress, district assessments, rubrics and data for every IEP goal the student has. When reviewing the progress report (or report card if applicable) we have hard evidence showing how students are performing. I often bring my computer and pull up my SeeSaw journal for parents to review or show examples of students reading. If there isn’t data, you are standing on an opinion. Don’t put yourself in that situation!
Be a Resource to Parents
Take a few minutes of your conference to educate parents on how to read through IEP progress reports. Those suckers can be tricky to read if you don’t know what you are looking for! I always highlight progress for each reporting period so parents can find the information they are looking for quickly. Share information what’s working in the classroom. I have handouts on sensory needs (Lemon Lime Adventure has amazing resources on sensory processing) , reinforcers, ABA/DTT, and what grade level standards look like. I’ve even been known to refer parents to podcasts and specific blog posts on The Autism Helper. You can never arm parents with too much information!
Also, ask how things are going at home. What community supports could be put in place to help the student more at home? Does your community have events for students with autism you could share? Get connected with resources in your area so you can help support your students outside the classroom. I make it a point to regularly share events and resources with my parents on SeeSaw, but parent teacher conferences are a perfect opportunity to share.
With a little planning and preparation, you’ll be ready to share how awesome your students are doing with their parents. When you come with data, examples, and have the whole team be part of the process, you’ll find conferences go smoothly. Here’s to the best conferences for you and your parents yet!