Meeting With the Parents
In Front of the Class
Research has shown that parental involvement is the most important
factor in a student's success in school. For many parents, however, that
involvement is limited to attendance at parent-teacher conferences.
Learn how to make the most of the opportunity.
Stew Pruslin, who teaches third grade at J. T. Hood School, in North
Reading, Massachusetts, will never forget one of his first
"My first year teaching," Pruslin told Education World, "I had a
rabbit that I let roam free in the classroom. During my second
parent-teacher conference ever, I looked past the mother who was facing
me and saw that the rabbit had cornered a soccer ball and was trying to
mate with it. As the rabbit bounced vigorously up and down on the ball,
I had to do everything I could to keep the woman's attention in my
direction while trying not to react to what I was watching right behind
her. Needless to say, I heard barely a word that mother said!"
Whatever your experiences with parent-teacher conferences might be,
research shows that parental involvement is the most important factor in
a child's success in school. You've gotta get them there -- no matter
what it takes.
What Administrators Can do
Administrators can increase parental attendance at conferences in the
Make parents aware of conference dates and goals.
|Announce dates and times repeatedly -- at PTA meetings, open
houses, technology nights, sports events, and school assemblies. |
|Publish the schedule in school newsletters and post it on the
school Web site. |
|Create a hallway or office bulletin board devoted to conferences.
|Provide conference information in as many languages as necessary
to reach all parents. |
|Wherever possible, include information on conference goals and the
reasons parental attendance is important. |
Make it as easy as possible for every parent to attend the
|Develop a flexible schedule that includes early morning, late
afternoon, and evening conference times. |
|Consider scheduling 20 to 30 minute sessions, rather than the
typical 15-minute time slots, or set aside additional time so teachers
can schedule longer conferences as needed. |
|Arrange for school counselors, office staff, or parent volunteers
to telephone parents, remind them of appointments, and encourage them
to attend. |
|Talk to the PTA about providing childcare, transportation, and
|Make sure translators will be available, if needed. |
|Let parents know what services will be provided. |
Prepare teachers to conduct successful conferences.
|Provide teachers with in-service training on conducting successful
|Provide teachers with information and skills for dealing with a
variety of parent-related issues. |
|Make sure teachers are familiar with district and school policies
for dealing with parent-related issues. |
What Teachers Can Do
Teachers can also help increase parental attendance:
|Schedule conferences and notify parents. |
|Send home personal letters to notify parents of conference dates.
Outline an agenda that will interest them and emphasize the importance
of the conference to their children's education. |
|Schedule conferences for students who have siblings in the same
school first and coordinate conference times with the siblings'
teachers. Do everything possible to avoid scheduling siblings'
conferences on different days or at widely disparate times. |
|Base the length of the conferences on the needs of the students.
If necessary, schedule two consecutive periods with parents you
suspect might require more time. |
|Send home personal invitations to the conferences and ask parents
to RSVP by a specific date. |
|Telephone parents who do not respond and encourage them to attend.
|Send home reminders one week before the conferences. |
|Contact parents who do not show up and try to reschedule. |
Make it possible for all parents to get the maximum benefit from
|Let parents know what special services will be available, and ask
them to notify you if they'll require services such as childcare,
transportation, a translator, or a specific conference time. |
|Provide parents with information about your curriculum and
classroom procedures before the conference date. Include a syllabus or
an outline of general areas of study, a list of broad academic goals
for the year, and a copy of your classroom rules and procedures.
Invite them to ask questions about those materials at the conference.
|Provide parents with suggestions on how to help make the
conference productive and ask them to complete a conference planning
sheet and bring it to the conference. |
Conference Planning Worksheet Part 1
Conference Planning Worksheet Part 2
Plan ahead for a pleasant and productive conference.
|Create a comfortable and private physical environment. Include
adult-sized seating, paper and pens so parents can take notes, and an
area large enough to spread the student's work out so parents can
examine it. |
|Prepare a folder with samples of the student's work and a list of
the student's current grades. |
|If you plan to ask parents to work with their child on a
particular skill or subject area, have appropriate materials available
for them to take home. |
|Know exactly what you will say and what questions you will ask. Be
prepared to cite specific examples when expressing concern about the
student's work or behavior. Try to anticipate parental reaction and be
prepared to respond calmly and appropriately. |
|Fill out your part of the
conference record. |
The Conference Itself
Getting parents to attend the conference is only half the battle,
however. Once they've arrived, you have to make it clear that their
involvement is vital to their child's success. Experienced teachers
offer the following quick tips to help get your conferences off on the
right foot -- and keep them there:
|Dress professionally. |
|Start every conference on time. |
|Make it clear to parents that you like their child. |
|Remain calm and positive. |
|Listen carefully and reflectively. |
|Emphasize a spirit of collaboration and cooperation. |
Following the "script" below will help you make each conference a
productive experience as well as a pleasant one.
|Welcome parents at the door and thank them for coming. |
|Establish rapport by sharing an anecdote about the student or by
inquiring about an activity the student takes part in outside school.
|Mention the student's strengths first. |
|Briefly discuss the student's progress in each subject area and
show examples of the student's work. |
|Briefly discuss the student's behavior, work habits, and social
|Devote half the conference to the parents' concerns. Invite
parents to share their thoughts and suggestions about the student and
encourage them to ask additional questions about their child's
|Set two or three immediate goals for the student and work with the
parents to create a plan for meeting those goals. Provide any
materials parents might need to implement the plan. |
|Arrange for a follow-up phone call or meeting and let parents know
how they can reach you if problems arise. |
|Complete the conference report and ask parents to sign it. As soon
as possible, make a copy of the report and mail it to the parents.
|Review the highlights of the conference and end on a positive
|Walk the parents to the door and thank them for coming. |
|Take a few minutes to make personal notes about the conference. If
you agreed to follow up on a particular issue, note it on your
Copyrightę 2006, EducationWorld.com, used by permission