Have you ever attended a parent-teacher conference? Maybe you’re a seasoned educator who’s had one too many conferences, or maybe you’re a relatively new teacher who’s dreading his/her second one. Regardless of your current situation, it’s never too late (or too early) to start improving your experience as an educator. Conferences can be very challenging for some – especially in schools that are underfunded – but it doesn’t have to be that way. When planned right, parent-teacher conferences can be an enjoyable experience that benefits all parties involved, contributing to the improvement of parent-teacher relations and student performance.

After doing some research, we’ve developed a how-to guide for conducting a successful parent-teacher conference. By following these steps, you will learn what to do before, during, and after the conference to ensure a pleasant and productive experience for everybody (especially yourself)

6 Steps to Have a Successful Parent-Teacher Conference

1) Do Your Homework
Before you start diving into the specifics of planning, you need to get informed about your school district’s protocol on report cards. Just like you would study before taking an exam, you want to establish the topics to be covered, and make sure you go over them to avoid any surprises. Then, you can have any progress report to help guide you through the meeting. You will be using this report to guide you throughout your coversations, referring to it when necessary and requesting for parents' feedback. In most cases, parents will appreciate your willingness to listen to their verdict.

2) Prep Your Materials
After you've done some research on report card protocol, figure out what materials you want to prepare beforehand. Think of this step like you did step 1 -- you're developing a toolkit for the rest of the conference so that you won't have to waste time looking for anything the parents might request. Here’s a common list of materials used by most teachers:

• Student Data – such as assignments and assessments
• Notes – i.e. questions you’d like to ask the parents about their children in order to support their learning
• Conference Folders – with 2 to 5 student documents that show student grades & progress
• Conference Agenda – make sure to share it with parents so they know what to expect
• Documentation – in case you need to discuss any problems of student misbehavior or missed assignments. Make sure to inform the

parents before the actual conference

3) Create a Welcoming Environment
Once you’re done with the materials, start organizing your classroom. Remember, your classroom is like your home; it says a lot about you. Displaying students’ work and making space for the conference with an adult-sized table and chairs goes a long way in making parents feel welcomed. Also, having an area set aside with puzzles, games, computers, and/or healthy snacks is a thoughtful way of accommodating parents bringing their child or other sibling, as they require some sort of distraction in order to avoid interrumptions during the meeting.

4) Discuss Student Progress & Growth
Start the conversation off on a positive note by mentioning areas of strength that their kids are excelling in. Parents will appreciate hearing this and be more receptive to further feedback on their son/daughter. Moreover, remind them that the goal of this meeting is to share info about their kids’ academic progress and growth. Many parents want to measure their kid’s performance by comparing them to their peers, however, make sure to remind them that you’re discussing their child’s individual levels of performance and inform them about grade-level expectations and how they’re doing in that context.

5) Make a Plan for Moving Forward
Spend the last few minutes of the meeting on your specific goals for the student, nothing the types of strategies you’ll use, how long they’ll take to implement, and when the next follow up will be. It’s your responsibility to give parents an accurate assessment of student’s academic progress. Unfortunately, sometimes this means being the bearer of bad news. Some parent may take your evaluation of their child in a negative or defensive way, however, you should never sugar-coat the facts, as this defeats the purpose of a conference. If the discussion becomes too heated to be effective, then you should conclude the meeting and ask to reconvene at another time. If you have reason to expect such negative interactions moving forward, ask an administrator to be present at the next conference. If you suspect a student may have a learning disability, you can just tell the parents you recommend him/her get an educational evaluation to determine his/her learning style.

6) Write a Thank-You Note
Last, but certainly not least, you want to follow up by writing a thank-you note to all the parents who attended. Many parents have to take time off work or hire a babysitter to attend so taking the time to say thank you goes a long way. Also, be sure to contact parents who did not attend, and offer an alternative way to communicate about their child’s progress. By letting parents know what’s on with their child in an ongoing basis, you help avoid surprises and misunderstandings at the end of the school year. Now you're ready to have a successful conference and start improving strong parent-teacher relationships, as well as student performance. And you know what the best part is? Next time, the experience won't feel quite as daunting :)

Have you ever had a successful parent-teacher conference? How did it look like? Did you use any specific outlines to help guide you through the process? Make sure to leave your comments below!
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