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Parent-Teacher Conference: Tips for Teachers

Updated on August 19, 2010

tips for teachers

As a retired teacher, I have certainly had my share of parent-teacher conferences. When I was young and inexperienced, I hated these meetings. I always felt a little on the defensive, like I was having to justify or prove myself to parents. As I got older and had more experience under my proverbial belt, however, I actually looked forward to meeting the moms and dads of my students. If you're a new teacher, you might benefit from the following advice.

Come prepared. Have the student's grades with you, along with a couple of recent tests or assignments turned in by the student. If the student has been a behavior problem, make sure you have adequate documentation with you, including the specific misbehavior, when it occurred, and what actions were taken on your part.

Have backup if you think you'll need it. If you've spoken to the parent on the phone and got the feeling she was going to be belligerent, ask an administrator to be present during the meeting. Don't hesitate to ask for help. That's a big part of an administrator's job.

Have the right attitude. Go into the meeting with a pleasant, positive approach. I've found that it always helps to start the meeting by saying something nice about the student. No matter how bad he might be, you should be able to find something nice to say. Perhaps he's always well dressed, maybe he has a great sense of humor, he's creative, he's helpful...anything at all that's positive. This will help win the parent over and to make them see that you genuinely care about his or her child.

Be asserive and lead the conversation. Be specific about the problems. Don't just say, "Johnny is lazy." Say something more along the lines of "Out of the last twenty homework assignments, Johnny turned in only two." Don't just say, "Jonyy doesn't pay attention in class." You can say that, but follow it up with, "Out of the past two weeks, I've had to wake Johnny up seven times during class."

Never use statements like "Johnny is dumb." Such statements might be true, but you'll have to be more diplomatic than that! Say something like, "I don't think Johnny has yet mastered the skills required to do Algebra. Perhaps he needs some remediation."

Offer a plan. Don't just say, "Johnny needs to work harder." Parents are not usually teachers. Help them to help the student at home by offering suggestions for effective study skills. If the problem is laziness, ask the parent to email you once a week to ask if Johnny has turned in all assignments for that week. Also, tell the parents about upcoming assignments and tests so that they can stay abreast of what's expected.

When parents and teachers work together, everyone benefits. It will make your job easier, and it will provide a much better chance for the student's success. And that, of course, will make the parents happy.


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