Planning parent conferences should be done in advance. If you are prepared to welcome parents into your room, you will communicate confidence and competence.
Use the checklist below to ready yourself for conferences.
1. Find out who schedules the conferences at your school. If you schedule your own, let parents know exactly when and where to meet with you.
2. Clean up the classroom and make it look the very best possible. You may need to request a table and adult-sized chairs before the conferences. As a tall adult, I know that nothing is worse than trying to sit in a first-grader's chair! Also, sitting with the parent at a table gets you away from the teacher's desk and creates a more cooperative atmosphere.
3. Keep the conferences on schedule. Many parents must take time off work to attend, so make every effort to adhere to a reasonable schedule. Also, don't let one set of parents wait in the back of the room where they can hear your discussion with another parent. Respect confidentiality.
4. Be professional with parents -- always stand to greet them and shake hands.
5. Dress appropriately for conferences. In many school districts this means wearing a suit, much as you would to the job interview. Ask a veteran teacher what is appropriate in your district.
6. Choose a point of focus, then gather representative samples of student's work to discuss with parents.
7. Provide handouts to parents about how they can help their child read, learn vocabulary, etc.
8. If you make commitments with the parents at a conference (agreeing to tutor a student, or to send home weekly reports) write them down in your plan book or calendar. It is very important that you follow through with the commitments made during the conference.
9. If a parent becomes angry or abusive toward you, end the conference and get some help from a colleague. Some schools now hold all parent conferences in the gymnasium or cafeteria to avoid problems. Each teacher has an individual table, but other teachers and administrators are in the room. Suggest this to your school if there have been frequent problems.
10. Begin and end parent conferences with positives. Always thank the parents for their support and for taking the time to attend the conference.
11. Be a public relations expert and sell your school and class to all parents. So often the media reports bad news about schools. As teachers, we know that good things take place every day in our schools.
Adapted from Bright Ideas, an NEA Checklist Series publication.