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What's All the Hype?
Communication with parents or guardians is an essential for students' growth and learning. One means of communication is the Parent-Teacher Conference. It is a time for parents and teacher to discuss a student in a constructive and beneficial manner. This is not a time for criticism, anger, blaming, or negativism. Unless there is a tone of genuine concern for the student and openness to the feelings and thoughts of all present, there will be no successful outcome. Although the teacher may have an agenda for having a parent-teacher conference, the parents must have input in the agenda as it unfolds. The question is: Are you willing to share the agenda?
Setting The Tone Of A Conference
The manner in which you greet the parents sets the tone for the conference. Be genuine in your handshake and let them feel that you are happy to see them. Your smile and eye contact will assure them of your warmth and sincerity. Everyone needs to feel a comfort level at this point, including the teacher. Begin by relating something anecdotal about their child. Maybe there was a humorous moment that day or last week. You might refer to a paper displayed on the bulletin board that belongs to their child. Share some positive thoughts and talents that their child displays. Always start on a positive note. Tell them good things about their child. You want to establish a connection with the parents. The student is the connection. Let them share some stories as well, and get them to talk about their child. You want the parents with you. You want them to listen to you. You now have their attention.
All students need to improve in some way and this is the time to introduce this. An effective way to get parents to understand the shortcomings of their child is to get them to admit it and tell you about it. Pose some questions, such as, "Does Joe have chores to do at home?" Maybe Joe is irresponsible in the classroom and has no responsibility at home. This contributes to the lack of responsibility and you can get them to admit that it might be a good idea to give him "jobs" to do at home. "Do you find Joe to be polite to his brothers and sisters?" "To parents?" They might begin to tell you that he gives them a hard time at home and has an attitude. You can sympathize and begin to contribute to the conversation and explain his lack of courtesy to others in school. Together you can begin to work on respect and you can offer some ideas to use at home. Maybe his impolite words can be rephrased when he "forgets". Modeling is an essential.
The importance of parents being able to share is that they actually begin to see where their child needs help without you saying it. Parents will begin to see you as the professional and look to you for guidance. As the professional they will look to you for suggestions. You are now in control of the meeting. To be in control, means that you can use your expertise to assist parents in helping their child. You can explain the difficulty their child is having without the parents feeling threatened. Parent participation has now become strength for you.
Getting To Work
Explain the goal or goals that you will be setting for the child in school. Make these goals attainable so that the child will meet with success. The parents must have the same goals at home. You can encourage them to write goals on a paper and post it in the home. This will put the responsibility on the child, the parents and the teacher. Plan a time to check the effectiveness of the goals. Maybe each week you can send home a checklist and check the goals that have been met for that week. Parents can sit with their child and talk about what has happened at home. Parents and child can sign the checklist and send it back. The parents should feel comfortable enough to call you or send a note when they feel they need positive reinforcement. There should be a partnership forming between you and the parents. This is the most effective way to help a child. To know that school and home are working together will help the student to realize the importance of learning.
This process may take 10 minutes or a half-hour. The preparation on your part is what dictates the time. If you are prepared before the conference it should be less time. Do not belabor discussions. Be polite and courteous, but when a point has been made, you should continue to the next item. Your leadership is essential in moving the meeting in the right direction. Summarize the conference, thank and praise the parents for coming to the meeting. Thank them for their input and how you look forward to continue working with them. They should leave feeling comfortable about what just took place and be positive about the direction of their child's learning.
The Bottom Line
It is important to involve parents or guardians as partners in the educational process of all students. Even when it is difficult to get parents to cooperate with this process, it is up to teachers to find ways to make the connections needed to engage parents or a child's caregiver. A positive, proactive, and persistent attitude will eventually work with caregivers who are absent in the educational process of their children.
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Parent/Teacher Conference Generator
This generator allows you to make a printable form that can be used to set up a parent teacher conference. It includes all the essential components for effective conferencing.
Learning Contract Generator
A "contract" is a valuable tool that teachers can use in negotiating terms with students and/or parents which details the specific expectations that the teacher, student, and sometimes, the parent formally agree upon. Learning contracts help the teacher and student share the responsibility for achieving desired outcomes. It also helps increase accountability and provides feedback to the student regarding progress toward meeting the agreed upon goals.