by Tressa Giordano As spring rolls around, many programs will be hosting parent-teacher conferences. Whether it is a requirement of your district, a requirement of a National Accreditation, or your programs choice to host conferences; it is a wonderful opportunity to share information about your students with their parents. Here are some tips to ensure that the conversation is productive, informative and best of all, a positive experience. It is extremely important to open the lines of communication with parents throughout the entire year through daily communication, program events, daily logs. etc. Conferences are another way to build that rapport with the parent(s) and further strengthen your relationship with them. Conferences give you the opportunity to let parents know how their children are progressing as well as give an opportunity for all of you to set goals for the child. BE PREPARED It is crucial that you, the teacher, as well any assistant teachers that may be joining you take some time to prepare information to present to parents. Information may include assessments, assessment results, art projects, writing samples, anecdotal notes, photographs of child in class and perhaps class projects. Parents love to see the work that their children have accomplished and appreciate explanations of growth, skill, and intention of the example being shown. BE POSITIVE Parents love to hear about ways in which their children are having a positive and nurturing experience while in your care. Give them examples of in-class situations of positive behaviors and accomplishments. This will help the mood if there may be situations or topics of challenge that you may need to discuss with the parent (s). You do not want the parent walking away from the conference focusing on the negative, but rather the positive and perhaps a couple of areas that you will all help the child work on. TEAM APPROACH If there are behaviors or skills that need to be improved upon for a child, be sure to have a strategy or plan of how to help that child. Present a couple of ideas to the parent(s) on how to help their child and together come up with a game plan. By working as a team, the parent (s) will feel like they are part of the solution and you as a teacher will gain their trust and support. KEEP IT MANAGEABLE As a teacher it is important to remember that you will only have so much time to discuss a child’s progress. Be respectful of the time you have allotted and if the conversation goes over the time, you may want to set up additional time to discuss things further. It is also important as a teacher to remember to gage how much information you are giving a parent at one time. You want to be sure you leave enough time for the parent to properly digest the information and have time to ask questions if needed. The worst feeling for a parent is to leave the conference overwhelmed, confused and with unanswered questions. KNOW YOUR FACTS For some parents a conference will be the time in which they will be making major decisions for their child. Will the child move on to Kindergarten or attend the program one more year? Is my child ready to move up into the next classroom? Is my child ready to discontinue special services? Be prepared to know the facts about the topic in general as well as the child’s performance. A parent will always make the final decision, as a teacher however you can give them factual information about realistic expectations as well as their child’s progress. END ON A HAPPY NOTE End your conference on a happy note. Whether its praising the parent(s) for raising the child with good manners, showing them an exceptionally special piece of artwork, or telling them about their child doing a good deed in class…..end things with a positive. Parents will take that with them as they leave and feel that you as a teacher truly care for their child and provide them with great education and care. KEEP THE CONVERSATION GOING Just because you have ended the conference, don’t let the conversation end….keep it going. Set a goal and perhaps an opportunity to follow up on the plan that you’ve set in place. It may just be a quick note, an email or follow-up phone call, however a parent will appreciate that extra step to know that you are serious about helping their child grow and develop. To find out more about Tressa Giordano - visit our About Us page.