It's so hard to believe that October is already here. Students are in the groove and active teaching is going on in our classrooms. I can remember during my first years of teaching, feeling really anxious about getting ready for parent-teacher conferences. Then my husband passed along a great strategy to me. He calls it, The Salami Technique. Think of a huge chunk of salami that is not sliced and difficult to eat. However, when the salami is sliced, it's easy to digest. I use this approach for parent-teacher conferences by dissecting the process into sections: Before, During, and After. By looking at conferences in this manner, I'm able to approach them with ease and confidence.
Plan, plan, plan, and after you've planned, plan some more. I can't stress this enough! Organization is your greatest friend in this process. One of the first things I do when getting ready for the conferences is to organize my student folders. I constantly collect data and information on how my students are performing in class. This information is stored in these folders that I can easily access and use during the conferences.
Pearls of Wisdom — create a checklist of materials needed for your conferences. This will ensure that you have all the necessary information at your fingertips:
In a perfect world, I would be able to schedule appointments with parents. This is not possible because I teach more than one literacy class. My conference information is organized by section and in alphabetical order, which allows for quick access to each student’s particulars when I greet the parents as they sign in.
Now, this is a personal choice to make the conference more inviting. It really depends on your comfort level. You can remove the barrier of the desk or the table between you and the parents and sit side-by-side, if the physical space allows. This will help to set the tone that you and the parents are partners in their child’s education.
Have notes that detail what you would like to cover in the conference. They will serve to keep you focused and help you maximize your time with your parents. It's very easy to go off on a tangent and lose your way, but having notes of the important points that you want to deliver will keep you on track.
Whew — you've shaken the last hand, and said your final good-bye of the evening. Conferences are done! Well . . . not really. If possible, create an email distribution list to send a follow-up message to your parents. You want to thank them for coming and let them know how you’re looking forward to the continued partnership with them.
For those parents who were unable to attend, I've included a sample reminder. Be mindful to reach out to those parents. As teachers, we want to give parents every opportunity to hear what's going on in the classroom to help the child succeed. Telephone conferences are an alternative way to "meet" with parents, if they are unable to physically come to your school. And if that is not even possible, the last option is to mail them the information that concerns their child. Be sure to document your attempts to reach out to the parents!
This year, for my conferences I am going to try something different. I am going to include student reflections of their work thus far in my class. My rationale is to give the students a presence in the conference process. It will be interesting to see their perspective of their work.
How did you make out during Parent-Teacher Conferences? Do you have any tips to share?