Teacher Conferences are quickly coming upon us. For many
teachers this is the first time you will be meeting the
parents and it is the initiation of a very important working
relationship. This means that within a few short minutes
you are going to have to: make the parents feel welcome,
tell them everything they need to know about their child's
academic and social progress, answer any questions or concerns
they may have, not offend any parents, afford the same time
and courtesy to every other parent waiting and, of course,
not keep them waiting too long. What to do, what to do?
Your classroom should be clean, appealing and reflective
of the hard work that is conducted there. You can arrange
a table at the front of your classroom to display some of
the work your class has completed. You could set out a photograph
album, a class book, projects from a recent course of study,
or an array of books the students use. When parents enter
your classroom, their attention should be drawn to this
table and not the conference taking place further inside
the room. At the front of the table, place a dated sign-in
sheet, pens and a note requesting parents to sign-in.
You need to remember that you and the parent you are meeting
have something very important in common. You share a child
and you both have the best interest of that child at heart.
Scheduling an appointment for a working parent in the middle
of the afternoon can be counterproductive. The parent might
not be able to get out of work, may be late, thereby ruining
your schedule, and may be annoyed at you for scheduling
the meeting in the middle of the work day. Instead of marking
the start of a working relationship, this may create an
If possible, arrange scheduled appointments for your meetings.
Divide the amount of time you have for conferences by the
number of students. This will tell you how much time you
will need for each meeting. Then block out the appointment
times and send home notes for each parent with the date
and time of the appointment.
If you know you will need more time with one parent more
than others, block a longer time period for that parent.
If you have siblings, afford the parents the same time for
each child. If you have two days for conferences (afternoon
and evening), send home a questionnaire asking parents which
time period is most convenient for them. This will help
you arrange your appointments so that it is the most efficient
use of your time.
is important. Rehearse what you need to say and make sure
you can get to everything within your time allotment. You
want to come across as knowledgeable, professional and self-assured.
You may choose to use a timer, although this feels like
playing Beat the Clock.
If you are not able to schedule appointments, you can have
numbered index cards in a basket or library pocket next
to your sign-in sheet. Post a notice requesting parents
to "Please sign in and take a number." If you choose this
approach then make sure you take the numbered card from
the parents as you meet with them. This avoids the confusion
of a parent taking a number that has been returned to the
Since your time is limited, you need to use it well. Prepare
an agenda for yourself, prioritizing the topics you need
to discuss. These should be general topics appropriate for
all your students. You could keep this on your desk, if
this is where your conferences will take place, or else
on a clipboard you can carry with you.
Always start your meetings on a positive note. Invite the
parent to sit down and begin by complementing the student.
Even if this seems difficult find something positive to
It is a good idea to create a folder for each student in
your class. This should contain any relevant information
pertaining to that student, i.e.. tests, homework assignments,
completed assignments, incomplete assignments, attendance
records. Documentation is necessary to substantiate any
remarks made to the parents. A parent may be unaware that
his/her child has been arriving late to school. Showing
the late passes for the child provides the proof. Keep copies
of all notes sent home and a record of any phone calls that
may have been made, especially if you have had to leave
a message on an answering machine. Messages can be erased.
Ending the conversation:
How you end your meeting is as important as how you begin
it. Even with constraints of time you do not want to rush
the ending. As you go through your agenda, slowly wind down
the tone of the meeting. Inquire if the parents have any
questions they need to address. Be sure to thank the parents
for meeting with you. Reiterate that you both have the best
interest of the child in common.
If the meeting requires a follow-up, you might want to take
the opportunity to schedule another meeting. If this is
not possible, you can explain that you will call the parents
or send a letter with times for possible meetings. If the
follow-up requires action on your part (i.e. referral to
a speech therapist, behavior chart, etc.) explain when you
will take the action and how you will notify the parent.
An important note regarding follow-up actions after the
conferences: If you say you are going to do something, then
do it. An empty promise serves no purpose for anyone involved.
is especially important to have a positive ending if it
was a difficult conference. If you have had to be the bearer
of bad news the parents may be surprised, shocked and embarrassed.
This puts them at a disadvantage and may work against you.
You need the parents to leave with a positive feeling about
both you and their child's academic situation (even if the
student's current academic situation is not a good one).
The parents need to know that you are trying to do the best
for their child, and you need parental support in order
to do the best for their child and every other child in
These are some basic tips that can help you survive your
first encounter with Parent Teacher Conferences. Be confident,
be pleasant and above all be prepared.