A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Tips for parent-teacher conferences

Who doesn't want to make parent teacher conference time go more smoothly?

Let's remember: you've probably worked all day and barely had time to grab a bite to eat, and then you sit and meet with parents rapid-fire in ten or fifteen minute increments.

So here's some tips:
1. Dress professionally in welcoming colors that flatter your skin tone. I like blue or green due to my coloring. Avoid red or black. Think about matadors and bulls, here.

If you can, don't wear your dressy clothes all day-- they will be wrinkled and possibly sweaty if your schools HVAC works as well as mine does. Wear comfortable clothes during the day, and then change after the kids leave.

Brush your teeth before the parents come, too.

2. Some fresh flowers are lovely to brighten up the room, and they smell nice, too, while not being as overpowering as other options to freshen the air.

3. I also like to keep a dish of hard candy (sugar free as well as fully leaded). It's a welcoming gesture.

4. Keep some blank paper or coloring books and crayons or markers for little brothers or sisters who may accompany mom and dad to the conference. This helps everyone concentrate on the conference at hand. Plus I then post those pictures(signed by the artiste) that kids leave me in my room, and you'd be surprised how much my big kids love this.

5.Start out positively. Name problems as challenges. If a kid doesn't turn in work, it's always effective to present a parent with signed "I didn't do my work" forms from the week. I recommend that every students give you either their assignment or one of these forms, so that you have something tangible so that parents can see the extent of the problem.

6. Do not allow one parent to monopolize an hour of your time. Stand up when the time is over, smile warmly, and say, "It's been lovely to speak to you, Mr. Pjhtwy; I hope you have a wonderful evening." And then, if you have to, walk to the door and possibly even out into the hallway.

7. Keep It Simple.

8. Don't argue. Realize that sometimes you and parents will never agree. Nonetheless, it is your classroom, and you have the right to expect reasonable behavior from your students. Do not agree to an intervention that puts the onus on you with all the other tasks you have to do unless there is a component built in for the student and the parents to buy in as well. For example, if the parents have access to grades online, and they actually HAVE that access, hold parents to that rather than agreeing to run a daily or weekly report. If you do that, you're still the only person who appears to care, and chances are the report won't get home anyway.

9. Parents who don't show up at conferences should be contacted via phone or even better email.

10. Prepare yourself to see parents wearing pajamas, parents wearing A-shirts, parents wearing clothing that would make a Vegas stripper blush, parents wearing slept-in sweats and no underwear (don't ask me how I knew this, just believe that I still have nightmares), parents who smell of alcohol and/or marijuana, as well as parents who dress and act professionally. Learn to school your expression so that you maintain outward calm.
Oh, and just because parents are dressed nice doesn't mean that the family is functional.

11. Do not assume that you're looking at Mom and Dad, or that names are the same. It's best to introduce yourself to each person. We have had people who were assumed to be one gender who turned out to be another, so don't make THAT mistake, either.

Oh, and make sure you get lots of rest afterward. You're gonna need it.



At 10/4/09, 3:27 PM, Blogger Mrs. Chili said...

I'm gearing up for my first solo parent teacher conferences. The only experience I've had with them was when I was an intern in a high school - from there, I went straight into teaching college, so I never had to deal with parents. I'm a little nervous, though I've not advanced to panicked yet...

At 10/4/09, 10:13 PM, Blogger Polski3 said...

Nice, useful list. And in some parts of this country, have a translator lined up so that non-english speaking parents can really benefit from the conference.

At 10/5/09, 12:37 PM, Anonymous bev said...

From a parent who has been here and done this: If you're going to have a psychologist or a counselor present at the conference, let the parent know ahead of time and explain why. No matter how nice your school counselor is and no matter how much you think you're supporting a family, no one likes to walk in on a cadre of people they've never seen before. It signals that there's a HUGE problem, even before the conference has started.

At 10/5/09, 10:26 PM, Blogger Mister Teacher said...

Yep, I've mistaken gender before...

Not pleasant...

At 10/6/09, 3:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, your area has parent-teacher conferences in the evening? My state has them during the school day (no children allowed on premises). As a parent, there's nothing more frustrating than scrambling to find a baby sitter and turning yourself inside out to leave work in the middle of the day so you fight traffic, fight for parking (remember, all the other parents are also trying to park) so you can spend 10 minutes in front of the teacher hearing, "Your child is doing fine. See you in six months".

At 10/6/09, 8:24 PM, Blogger Ms. George said...

It is also helpful to school your otherwise stunned reaction to the gorgeousness of a parent (although the daughter was stunning even in 7th grade)... I still remember the SS and Math teachers on my team dropping jaws at one mom.

At 10/6/09, 9:15 PM, Anonymous Exurban Mom said...

Can you talk about this trend towards "student-directed parent-teacher conferences?" We have just been told our 3rd grader's conference will be lead by her. I find this a bit odd, and a bit annoying, as I was looking for a few minutes of the teacher's time to discuss some problems we are having at home, without her sitting there in front of me!

At 10/7/09, 6:44 AM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

We've had had these kinds of conferences with our younger children at the elementary school level. I personally think that these are not the best use of conference time. I know that they probably want to encourage oral communication skills, and probably accountability, but I think being able to establish open communication between parents and teacher without having to watch a dog-and-pony show put on by my nine-year-old.

At 10/8/09, 4:00 PM, Blogger Devin said...

Thanks for the list! I'm really nervous about my first parent-teacher conference but its still a few weeks away. I am printing this list out and keeping it in my desk so I can look at it a few days before the conference. I have also found some pretty good lists on Applebatch.com that other teachers have posted. You might think about posting this there too. Thanks again I think these tips will really come in handy. Hopefully I won’t mistake a gender. :)

At 10/14/09, 6:00 AM, Blogger Aathira said...

I have been following your blog for sometime... though this is my first comment here.

Thought would drop by and send you this site for your opinion before I start using it with my class.

At 10/15/09, 4:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One more thing....don't say something along the lines of "are you Mom?" I have a first and last name, and a title I use on occasion. There are only three people in the world who get to call me Mom. And the teacher isn't one of them.

At 10/30/09, 5:13 PM, Blogger Magical Mystical Teacher said...

If I actually had parents show up for conferences, I'd be thrilled, no matter what they were wearing--or weren't!

At 10/31/09, 7:11 AM, Blogger Ellie Finlay said...

Hi, Ms Cornelius. I came over here from MadPriest's place.

It's been quite a number of years since I've been in the classroom but I sent a link to your blog to someone who still is!

And I'll come back and visit anyway!

(Ha! Word verification is "fracess"!)

At 10/31/09, 10:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am the "someone who still is", but I am at the early childhood level. I'm glad to know about your blog. Yes, the list is a good one. My conferences went well, although there are still many phone calls to make, since more than half did not come.

How were yours?

(My word verification is "barboril"; this is not a word from the kindergarten vocabulary!)


At 11/3/09, 3:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One more thing on the parent teacher conferences...be sure to be able to explain why a child got the grade they did. In two of my conferences, I asked why my child got a particular grade. One teacher said that she didn't know. Another teacher said that my child got the grade she did because they were the first trimester. If she had gotten the same score later in the year, she would have gotten a higher grade.

Actually, I guess I should say, have a good reason why a child gets their grade.

At 11/3/09, 10:40 PM, Blogger Polski3 said...

Hey, you doing ok ?????

At 11/4/09, 7:00 PM, Blogger NYC Educator said...

Thoughtful tips. It's tough in a big school, because we don't get our own rooms. In fact, I'm in the library with my entire department. We each get a little table, four chairs, and anyone extra is pretty much out of luck.

At 11/11/09, 1:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I miss your blog - are you OK?


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