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Teachers Network in the News
Article courtesy of New York Teacher

web corner
____________________________________ Parent-
Online advice

                      By BILL STAMATIS                      

Parent-teacher conferences are often a source of anxiety and trepidation for teachers, parents and students. However, they are your first best chance to connect to the parents and guardians of your students. Here are some online resources that may help make your meeting with parents positive and productive.

Since conferences are scheduled for mid-November, you or your school, should quickly contact parents reminding them of the dates. If you haven't already done so, let parents know what you hope to accomplish with their children this year and that you look forward to meeting them. NYSUT, the UFT's state affiliate, offers some "Dos and Don'ts" at http://nysut.org/newmember/survival_
conferences.html. They include how to dress, avoiding subjective statements and, instead, relying on actual results that show what the student must do to improve.

NYSUT recommends refraining from using education buzzwords like "cooperative learning" and abbreviations like ACT, SAT and IEP. Instead you should use parenthetical explanations like, "This year we will use math manipulatives, which are objects, like this set of marbles, that let kids touch and experience what is meant by mathematical symbols."

Another great site, written by Allison Demas, is from the Teacher Network (www.teachersnetwork.org/ntny/nychelp/
need_to_know/ptconfer.htm). One of the problems on parent-teacher conference days is seeing all the parents within an allotted time period. The most frustrating thing for parents is having to wait so long that they miss seeing half of the teachers whom they came to see. Demas shows you how to schedule conferences so you can see everyone, what you need to do to be prepared to conduct the conference and then how to end the conversation.

The ending is very important, Demas says. "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)."  Always end on a positive note and take the opportunity to establish a partnership with them. Remember that the children you're

speaking about are the apples of their parents' eyes.

Scholastic offers another set of tips written by Linda Shalaway (http://teacher.scholastic.com/products/
instructor/planning_parent_conf.htm) that also emphasize preparedness. She suggests that you put together some student work and a schedule of daily activities so the parent can know something about their child's typical day. Shalaway provides a "Sample Parent Conference Form" for parents to complete before the first conference that asks parents to assess the strengths and weaknesses of their child. There is a similar form for you to fill out. If you are delivering bad news about academic or behavioral concerns, Shalaway says, avoid jargon and be tactful, "but not so tactful that you don't adequately communicate the problem."

If you want to know how to comment on a student's report card, take a look at Report Card Comments at (http://expage.com/4reportcards), which contains links to other sites.

One is to Indiana University East Beginning Teacher Mentor Program (www.iue.indiana.edu/Departments/
mentor/parent_con.html). It offers a few good suggestions that everyone should consider. For example, ask an administrator or another supportive professional to sit in on any meeting with parents that you think might be difficult. Having another adult in the room can often change the dynamics of the interchange.

A strategy that is worth considering for middle- and high-schoolers is the student-led conference. This makes the student an integral part of the discussion with both the parent and teacher, and a partner in the outcome. On the MiddleWeb site (www.middleweb.com) you'll find "The Highs and Lows of Parent-Teacher Conferences" by Holly Holland, which describes some of the dynamics involved in conferences that include students. For instance, Louisville, Ky., middle school teacher Dena Kent found that asking students to assess their own work taught them to accept responsibility for their actions. In fact, she adds, "When students deliver the bad news, parents are more receptive. It's not the teacher [who's] to blame."

This is just a smattering of Web sites that offer teachers help for conducting parent-teacher conferences. For more, go to http://uft.org/new_teacher/menu/news/.

One other tip: Pay attention to the sites that offer advice to parents, because they will clue you in to what typical parents want to know about their children's progress in school.


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