During your first years of teaching, parent-teacher conferences can be so stressful. Even as a veteran teacher, there are years that I still stress about those tough conversations with parents. Because of the advice I received from mentor teachers and my years of experience, I now think about parent-teacher conferences less as a ball of stress and more as opportunities to get to know the families of the children in my classroom. Parent-teacher conferences are a chance to communicate with the people that know my “kids” best so that they can learn and grow!
Here are my top tips for surviving your first parent-teacher conferences!
Show that you care.
First, always remember: your student is someone else’s child. Even when they are showcasing their worst behavior, they have someone at home who wants what is best for them. Honesty shows that you care. This means that you don’t want to sugar coat everything, of course. You should tell parents where their child is struggling, but you should also share their child’s strengths. When I think about even the most challenging student in my class each year, there are still amazing things about that young person! You should always tell what makes their child unique and special. Communicate how they can use those strengths to focus on the opportunities for improvement.
For example, if Luca is having a hard time following directions but loves to doodle and draw, tell parents that you would love to have Luca make a task sheet to sit on his desk with his own special drawings. This can be a reminder for him to stay on task every day, but it also showcases his artistic strengths.
Organize, prepare, repeat.
If you have all the student data, notes, and forms ready ahead of time, conferences will be a breeze!
I always have a file for each student. This is really just a basic manila folder that includes sample work from the grading period, assessments, Fountas and Pinnell Guided Reading levels, and any other data relevant to your classroom and their student. Even second graders can share some of their assessment goals with their parents in their own words. Student-led parent-teacher conferences are my favorite because your kids can go through their folders with their parents. You can provide any feedback or explanation while they are there with you!
In addition, the student info form explains student strengths and difficulties or opportunities for growth. Depending on the age of your students, you may have them fill this out with you in class ahead of time. I like my students to be partners in their learning, goals, and growth. There shouldn’t be any surprises for your students at conferences.
Finally, I want to be prepared for the next steps after the conferences. I make sure to have my own goal and planning sheets for action steps I need to take to help my students best succeed after talking with their parents.
End on a positive note.
Even if there are some tough things you need to talk about, make sure you allow families to leave hearing something positive about their child to make them feel supported and at ease. For example, thank parents for helping their child at home and being supportive of you and your classroom. I usually leave the parents with a sweet, simple treat like a mint. Sending them home with something positive (and inexpensive) shows you care.
Surviving your first parent-teacher conferences isn’t an impossible feat! My New Teacher Masterclass includes every conference form and sign you need to stay organized and be ready to meet and greet parents! Come join this group of dedicated new teachers on your journey in the classroom.