Tips for parent conferences
Basic suggestions and points to keep in mind when meeting with parents.
- Think of your relationship with the parent as if you are the parent discussing your child with you. If it would make you upset with a teacher, don’t say it!! In other words, put yourself in the parent’s shoes.
- Be an active listener. Understand the parent’s frustrations as well as your own. General Rule: Keep calm and make sure you listen and not only hear. The parent may give you clues to a solution of a problem without even realizing it (soccer practice, latch key, goes to a friend’s house until I get home, etc.)
- Let the parent vent his feelings and emotions. Ask open ended questions rather than getting defensive. Try to get the parent to see the problem, state your point of view in a friendly manner, then offer to work with the parent for the child’s benefit.
- Be sure to introduce yourself in a warm manner, no matter what you really think of the student. You set the tone. The parent should feel comfortable. “I’m glad you’re here.” (Not a bad way to start the conference.)
- Be prepared: Be sure that you have the student’s grades, work samples, copies of notes sent home and copies of any office referrals. Will you need an interpreter? Arrange for this in advance.
- Don’t put the parent on the defensive. Be objective, not subjective. As Jack Webb use to say on Dragnet, “Just the facts, mam.”
- Check out the student’s cumulative folder. Make notes of previous problems. Use this only if the parent tries to make you out to be the bad guy: “My child has never had problems until this year.” If you teach at the secondary level, ask a counselor or dean if the student has been referred for disciplinary reasons from other teachers. It’s not important to know why; it’s just to keep everyone honest.
- Let parents know that education is a partnership between the home and the school for the good of the child.
- The very existence of a problem does not mean that there is a solution. Causes of many problems can be deep-seated. Trying to solve every problem is not possible. Your role is to demonstrate to the parent what you have experienced with the child.
- Never tell a parent that the child needs therapy or that they should seek medical advice. You can refer the parent to the school nurse or counselor if they ask for your opinion on such matters.
- Never say something like this: “This is a pretty bad class and when your child acts up, it just makes it more difficult for me.” Don’t ever let the parent think that you’re having management difficulties. Don’t ever look for sympathy.
- Be sure to tell the parent some positive things about the child.
- Quite often, we most remember the last thing we hear. Conclude your conference in a positive manner. Review any solutions or courses of action that were discussed and agreed to.
- Sometimes the conference could be the beginning of the solution. If the parent seemed hostile during the conference, you might need to tell her that now that you’ve met, you’d like to think about the things discussed and meet again the following week. If the parent accepts the conference, it will almost guarantee a positive atmosphere.
- During the time in between, you could ask for advice, if necessary. If the parent declines a second conference, don’t get angry, just realize that you’ve done what you can.
- Remember to thank the parents for sharing their concerns and listening to yours.