Parent-Teacher Conferences – To The Teacher
A routine parent-teacher conference can strike terror into a parent’s heart; so teachers and child care providers need to be sensitive to the fact that a parent’s ego may be closely involved with any report on a child’s progress. Perhaps you are a parent, yourself, and you have felt this way, too. Here are some suggestions for making a parent comfortable and the situation productive:
- Be on time – keeping a parent waiting may make him/her anxious. Try to set a positive and supportive tone for the conference. If you can see that a parent is very nervous or even hostile, begin with some “pluses” about the child. Ask the parent to tell you at the beginning of the conference, if s/he has any special concerns; then incorporate your answers into the conference. (In scheduling conferences make sure to set aside enough time to avoid “rushing” parents through. If one parent is monopolizing the time you have scheduled for other parents, make a second appointment with that parent rather than keeping everyone else waiting.)
- Try very hard not to let your personal biases intrude into the conference – whether it’s with a child you adore or a child you frequently clash with. Always try to assess your role in any behavior problems. Parents respond better to being treated as partners rather than to being given edicts from an “expert.”
- If a child needs work in an academic area, be very specific about what needs improvement. “John needs help in math” doesn’t tell a parent as much as “John needs to work on his addition and subtraction skills.” Many parents are willing to work with their children at home, but aren’t sure what to do. Give specific suggestions of what a parent can do to improve a child's skills and show the parent samples of the exercises. Keep in mind, however, that most parents work – so their time may be limited.
- If behavior is a problem, try to outline the specific behavior in a neutral way that doesn’t antagonize the parent. “Jennie’s got a big mouth” probably won’t go over too well – “Jennie likes to talk a lot and it is interfering with her work” may get a better response. In this area the parent may be the “expert.” S/he may have some good ideas why a child is acting a certain way and s/he may have some suggestions about how to handle a specific problem. Usually, this area is the most frustrating for a parent. While s/he can talk to the child at home, the parent can’t come to school to supervise. Sometimes a three-way parent-teacherchild conference works better for behavior problems.
- Don’t tackle too much at once. If a child has both an academic and a behavior problem, maybe what is needed is two conferences. If you overwhelm a parent with problems, you may not get the home support you really need.
- Don't mention minor problems that don't require a parent to get involved. Saying “Susan is having trouble sitting still for a long time, but there’s nothing you can do about it at home” only causes a parent concern without offering a way to remedy the situation.
- Never compare a child to a sibling or to another child in the class – positively or negatively – and discourage parents from comparing one of their children to another. Never praise one child’s academic or social progress in front of other parents: it’s bound to upset someone.
- Follow-up on any conference promises by sending home extra work sheets or special homework. If you have a parent all set to work with his/her child, don’t let the momentum die.
- If you can see that home support is helping, LET THE PARENT KNOW. And, remember to praise the child.
Parents want their children to succeed in school so they expect a lot from teachers – sometimes too much. If a problem persists, don’t hesitate to seek outside advice from another teacher or professional. If you feel that a child needs to be tested, discuss it with the parent and help the parent arrange an appointment. Always remember that to each parent, his/her child is special. If the parent leaves a conference feeling like s/he has failed as a parent in some way, better s/he had never come. However, if the parent feels confident s/he has your support in resolving problems – the conference was a success!
BANANAS Child Care Information & Referral • 5232 Claremont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94618 • 658-7353 • www.bananasinc.org
©1979, BANANAS, Inc. Oakland, CA. Revised 2003.
Reprinted with the permission of BANANAS, Inc. © 2007 BANANAS
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