Communication between parents and teachers is essential to the success of the students. Often, the only time communication takes place is at parent-teacher conferences. For that reason, it is essential that teachers learn to effectively manage parent-teacher conferences in order to obtain the most benefit from the communication that occurs.
The following tips allow teachers to take a proactive approach to parent-teacher conferences, helping to create effective communication during the conference:
Prepare - Preparing for a parent-teacher conference means knowing exactly what goals have been established for the class, and each individual student, and being ready to show parents how their student is performing toward those goals. For each student, be prepared to show work samples and test scores. In addition, be ready to share behavioral anecdotes for that child. A story can help convey behavioral issues without stating them explicitly, helping to keep parents from becoming defensive. While showing the grade book is an option, it must be done in a way that prevents parents from viewing the grades of other students.
Environment - Create an environment that is comfortable for the parents. Placing parents in smaller chairs than the teacher, or facing the teacher across the teacher's desk, places the teacher in a controlling position that can cause parents to feel intimidated or defensive. Instead, place them in equal seating, perhaps across a table, to establish a sense of equality. Ensure privacy for the conference so parents do not feel as though others can hear what is being said about their child. Organize paperwork so it is easily accessible but out of the way during the conference.
Professionalism - Preparation and proper environment are two aspects of professionalism. Dress and manner of speech fall into this category also. Parents judge a teacher's competence by the amount of professionalism, or lack thereof, that they see displayed. Teachers who want to be viewed as competent professionals should project that image throughout the parent-teacher conference.
Rapport - Teachers should begin the parent-teacher conference by attempting to establish a connection with the parents. Greeting parents warmly, welcoming them to the classroom, and engaging in brief small talk all help to establish rapport. Teachers should also encourage parents to discuss their views and/or concerns about their children. Doing so demonstrates genuine concern for the child, which helps get parents more involved in their child's education.
Communication - Not only should communication at the parent-teacher conference be positive, it should also be clear and specific. When discussing behavior issues, teachers should focus on specific actions, including duration and frequency, rather than offering general comments. Teachers should communicate clearly about all positives and negatives of the student's behavior and performance. Clear, specific statements leave less room for interpretation, which leaves less room for argument by the parents. Communication should also include positive statements, making it clear that the student is a person of value, rather than including only the negatives about the child's behavior and performance in class. Even the negatives can be phrased in such a way that the statement is positive and does not create the need to place blame.
There are other techniques for managing parent-teacher conferences, but this list is an excellent starting point. By creating a professional, positive atmosphere, teachers can effectively manage the parent-teacher conference and make the most of the communication that takes place.
Author: Brian Stocker