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NYC Helpline: How To: Work with Students' Families

How to Hold Parent Meetings  Allison Demas

The primary focus of my next series of articles will be on how to work with students’ families. It is my intention to show you how you can educate the parents as to the manner in which you are educating their children, and show them how they can help. Parent Teacher Conferences don’t really afford you the time necessary to convey what you need to explain so you should really plan to hold another meeting. There are certain logistical matters which need to be attended to before you actually meet with your parents.

First, you need to get the approval of your supervisor. It is a good idea to get approval in writing so you might want to present your request, with all the pertinent information, in the form of a memo.

You need to ask yourself a few questions. Why are you holding the meeting in the first place? Are you providing parents with basic information which will help them navigate their child’s school year? Are you trying to teach the parents a particular skill or strategy which they can use with their child? Your purpose should be simple, concise, and well-defined. You want to encourage parental involvement which includes questioning and discussion. It is better to have a few meetings over a period of time, each focused on one topic instead of one meeting with a litany of topics. The latter may serve only to overwhelm the parents. Sometimes less is more.

You need to determine who will be included in the meeting. Are you conducting the meeting alone or with a colleague? Are people presenting from the same grade and have a common focus? Are you going to provide specific instruction on a particular topic (for example, how to help children use a reading strategy)?

Your purpose can determine the setting. If you require the parents to conduct some activity you might need a large uncluttered space. If you want the parents to better understand their child’s daily experience then you might want a smaller, informal setting, like a classroom. Again, you need to consider who is involved and how many people you expect to attend. There is a big difference between cozy and claustrophobic and sometimes one person can make that difference.

Will the meeting be held during the school day or in the evening? You might want to hold two duplicate meetings, one in the daytime and one at night, in order to accommodate varying work schedules. If you are holding the meeting during your preparation period then you had better make contingency plans for coverage in case you lose your prep that day.

Make sure the parents are given ample notification of the upcoming meeting. They may need to make baby-sitting arrangements or change plans. Advance notice is the courteous thing to do.

You need to look at your student population and then beyond that, to their parents. Do any of them require a translation into another language? If the answer is ‘only one’ then that ‘one’ is more than enough to oblige you to provide that translation. This can be in the form of a fellow teacher or a parent. Also make sure that any handouts which will be distributed are also translated.

It is a good idea to have a numbered sign-in sheet for the parents. You could request that they included their child’s name. This will easily tell you how many parents attended and from which class. You can also learn an awful lot about the kind of support a child may be receiving at home by how much of an attempt the parents make to attend meetings.

This is not a necessity but it is a nicety. I usually wrap up about three new books. I have a plastic bag with small pieces of paper, numbered to coincide with my sign-in sheet. I pull a number from a bag and then give the parent who signed in next to that number “A gift for your son/daughter to thank you for coming.” You would be surprised how much this gesture means to parents and it can go a long way to creating a partnership conducive for the students’ success. Ultimately, that is the purpose of any parent meeting you have.


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