- Bringing Project Based Learning to our Classroom - August 12, 2018
- Keep the Engagement Alive: Start the Year with Purpose - August 5, 2018
- It's Our Fault: A Teacher's Confession - March 18, 2018
- Keeping Your Teaching Real: A Teacher's Role - March 11, 2018
- Sketch Notes in the Elementary Classroom - February 15, 2017
- Teach From the Heart - February 9, 2017
- Who is the Teacher: School or Family? - January 11, 2017
- Dear President Elect Trump, From Your Teachers - November 17, 2016
- Let them Be Children - October 21, 2016
- Print Resources: Great Tools for Kids - October 17, 2016
Each new school year I start with lists. I have lists of school supplies I buy and hunt down at sales. I have a list of things to do to prepare and organize my classroom for a new set of students and families. Then there is the class list. When I receive my class list every year I look at it with curiosity and a little fear. Who are these children coming into my room? What experiences do they come with? What experiences are they lacking? How have they been taught? Where do they go home each night? Will I be able to meet their needs?
Parent teacher conferences occur after I have had these children for 9-weeks. Scheduling 20 plus families into two days only allows for a small window of time. There is a rush to share all of the growth and learning. This time is precious and I cram into it as much as I can to show families what we have accomplished and where we are going. But after each family walks away I think of more. Making sure you are prepared will allow you to optimize the small window of time you have with each family.
Reflections are a necessary part of the learning process. Each quarter when I pause and look at the growth I am overwhelmed with pride for my students’ hard work. They have made progress in academics and behavior. They are growing as people. It is exciting to stop and look at what is taking place in front of my eyes each day in the classroom.
Sharing student growth and learning with parents is also an important part of the learning process. We live in the teacher world and know the talk. Parents are focusing on the child they have known from birth. You get a small glimpse into their life for one short school year. Parents walk the path with them beyond and see a different picture than we do. If you are doing a teacher lead or student lead conference being prepared with what you want to cover is key. This is how I structure my conferences to share the successes and discuss the concerns at parent teacher conferences.
- Hello-- Stand and greet parents. When you meet them at the door it sends a welcoming message. Ask how they are doing or how their day is going. Many parents are nervous to come into the classroom. They may have had negative experiences as children or they may be unsure of their role in your learning community. Invite them to sit where you will be conducting the conference. Most parents have not been into your classroom beyond Open House or Parent Night, if at all. Making them feel welcome sends the message you are both on the same side.
- Organization--Have the evidence of how their child is meeting your goals and objectives organized and ready to share. Have pencils, paper for notes, and a calendar on the table for parents to use and reference as you discuss their child.I have my students write a letter to their parents telling them what they have learned this year (something they did not know last year), what they are working towards (academic or behavior goal), and what they are enjoying. I give the letter to parents as we sit at the table. This helps open the conference and I have time to arrange anything I may need. If the child is present they can read the letter aloud. When this is finished you are ready to showcase their student.
- Kudos--Open with a compliment. Think about something positive about their child. You are talking about their baby. They are a direct extension of their parents and how the child acts, behaves, performs is a direct reflection upon the parents. A small compliment or positive word about the student can help parents understand you see the value in their child.
- Proof--Go through the evidence and work from your classroom. Remember to explain goals and objectives in terms parents can relate to. If you have a students with many concerns focus on the top two. Don’t distress parents with a list of things their child can’t do and needs to work on. Don’t use acronyms or teacher talk. Explain what the student did and what you expected. Having hard evidence provides a transition into the grade card where grades are something parents usually find passion about. Lastly, go over the grade card and explain how the grades reflect the work they have just seen. Having seen the student work makes it easier to see grades that reflect that student work. Focus on goals and objectives and growth.
- Questions--Ask if parents have any questions or concerns you have not covered. Discuss anything they have concerns over. Make a note to yourself so you will be able to follow-up with a phone call or email in a few weeks to touch base on how things are going in the area of concern. This allows parents to again feel a part of the learning.
- Resources --Give parents what you want them to have so they can support you at home. Provide them with a list of links, the objectives their child should have mastered, or a list of books they can read at home. The push for educational information, games, and apps is overwhelming today. Give parents what you want them to be talking about at home. This should be a handout or bookmark they can take home. Providing them with resources will extend your classroom into their homes.
- Assist--Leave them with a smile. Restate the positives and growth the student has made in your room. Remind parents if they have questions or concerns you are always there. Ask them if they need anything else made available on your classroom blog, website, Facebook page, or any other resources you provide on a regular basis for home communication. Walk them to the door and thank them for their time. Send them away with a smile, friendly salutation, and reminder you are always accessible.
Parent teacher conferences are an important tool in education. They allow you to share student growth and any concerns you have with parents. If you build a relationship with them you will find you have help at home to support what you are doing in your room. Parents want what is best for their children. They want them to be happy and successful. In our current digital, ever-expanding, busy world being a parent is difficult. Arm parents with the things you want them to have. Arm them with the things that will support your classroom. You are both working towards the greater good of helping each child along their path of life. Parenting is hard work. So is teaching. Enjoy this time of reflection on where the path is going and how far you have all come so far this year.