Script in Hand
Come up with a script or checklist of things to discuss ahead of time, such as the student’s current percentages and strengths and weaknesses; your goals for the student; and any other concerns. It keeps things moving and prevents the parent from taking control of the meeting.
Partner with Parents
Conferences can be very intimidating to parents. Not only are we assessing their child but parents may also feel we are assessing them. Set short- and long-term goals with them so they feel like an integral part of their child’s educational plan.
Change of Venue
I had one parent who didn’t like schools, so I met her on the playground. I had a parent who did not have transportation, so we met at her apartment-complex conference room.
Prepare, prepare, prepare! I want to hit everything I need to in the short time we have to talk. I also tell the parents right away that I have high expectations for their child, and that seems to bring down any hostility that may have walked in with them.
Positives > Negatives
State five positives for every negative.
Ask the Experts
Nothing in a conference should be a surprise (unless it happened in the past 24 hours). Be in contact from day one. Show examples. Seek parents’ advice; they are the experts on their child. That said, you are the expert in education. You don’t have to defend why you teach the way you do.
The Best Policy
No matter what, be honest.
Visuals Are Key
Have work samples and a chart that visually shows their child’s progress in your class.
Never, ever get defensive.
— Candie M.
Make sandwiches! Good point, bad point, good point.
Bring Backup Data
Let them know what’s coming if it’s a concern. No parent wants to be blindsided. Make sure you have the data to back you up—for both academics and behavior.
Same Side of the Table
Don’t sit behind a barrier like a table. Both of you should sit in front of the table. It’s less confrontational and offers a greater chance of gaining rapport, especially if you’re worried about the conference!
Let Students Lead
I do student-led conferences. It makes such a difference when the child is there to hear the positive and see where he or she can improve. I have truly seen a change in my students when they are the ones who have to tell their parents how they did in the past semester.