Rocking Parent/Teacher Conferences

We have reached mid-term for third quarter already! How did that happen so quickly? With mid-term comes two nights commonly referred to as Parent/teacher meetings.

Back in my day . . .

As a kid, I didn’t mind these meetings. We would bring home a notice of the day and time our parent was to come meet the teacher and talk about all the things we were doing in class. Once there, we got to show our parents where we sat (usually ending up cleaning out all the random flotsam and jetsam that accumulated there). Then the teacher talked to the parent who came to let them know where our grades were sitting. And for those kids who were causing problems, to talk about those.

In the age of Tecnhology . . .

Welcome to the technology age where parents and students can check grades daily (I actually recommend weekly). Emails are sent from a handheld device. Remind, Telegram, Sign up, Class Dojo, and other systems give feedback on behavior, send reminders and request help. The school has a website and a Facebook page. Many teachers have a blog, Canvas, or Google Classroom where assignments are posted daily.

And yet, I will be spending two days this week meeting wih parents every 10 minutes from 2 to 7 to talk about these things.

I’m not complaining. I love talking to parents about these kids I absolutely adore. The kids get a chance to tell me what is working well in class. I like being able to explain to parents how their child is growing academically, socially, and emotionally. By the end of these meetings, students sit up straighter and smile with the knowledge that their teachers see them. We know how they are pushing against the hard tasks assigned to them, and everyone sees them growing.

That being said, conference week is difficult. The days are long, instruction time is short, Mom guilt for not being with my own kids is high, and sometimes dealing with parents is difficult. And emotional. Having to tell parents their student is not doing well in class because they refuse to work is not a fun conversation to have. Nor is telling a parent about disruptive behavior. Trying to be on your A-game when you really need a cup of coffee and a nap after teaching on a shortened schedule is also a struggle.

Want to help your kid’s teachers out? Here are 10 things your child’s teacher wants you to know before these meetings.

10 Ways to Make Parent/Teacher Meetings Successful

  1. Check your student’s grades BEFORE showing up. In fact, get in the habit of checking them weekly and discussing with your student what needs to happen in the next week. In my 5th grade class, I taught my students how to log in and check their grades. Every Friday, they pull up their grades and update the Missing Work folder. This paper goes home, and a parent signs saying they looked it over. The folder comes back to school on Monday where they get a grade for the parent signature. A copy of this form can be found here.
  2. Bring specific questions to the meeting. Instead of asking, “How is my student doing?” say, “I’m concerned about their Journal grade. What can they do to make that up?” Getting to the heart of the matter quickly means we can address the things that need to be looked at and not waste everyone’s time.
  3. Bring your child with you. I know it is parent/teacher conferences, but your child is a major part of this equation. I like to think of education as a three legged stool. Parents make up one leg, teachers a second, and the student the third. All three need to be present to make the stool stable. Students need to realize they are accountable for their learning.
  4. Be on time, or a little early. I have 54 students between both classes. When parents are late, I get behind and then I either have to rush the next appointment or I make them wait. Neither is optimal since 10 minutes is already a short amount of time. If you have seeral students, please don’t schedule their meetings back-to-back in case one meeting runs a bit over. Give yourself some grace time.
  5. If you bring siblings, have a plan for them during the meeting. I love kids — I teach them all day, and I have five of my own. But, trying to talk to you about one student while the other kids are pulling out my papers, markers, recess toys makes me more than a bit distracted. Bring something for them to do while you are talking. Before my kids went to my school with me, I had them bring an activity book or two toys they could easily carry and clean up. The littles were doing their thing while I got to talk to the teacher with that specific student.
  6. Email before the conference. Most teacher I know have a file on each student where they keep important papers. Samples of writing, homework, testing, etc. If you have a concern about something, drop an email before conferences so the teacher has time to make sure the information is in the folder and can be addressed then.
  7. Follow up a week later. Did your teacher promise that they would get you a copy of the newsletter? Gather another writing sample? Sechedule a meeting with administration? Follow up the following week. I know I usually have a page of things I need to do after conferences, and sometimes those things take a back burner to the daily teaching stuff. I appreciate it when parents check back in the week after to remind me of what they need to help their student be succesful.
  8. Keep it professional. Our number one prority is your child and their education. Parents who are divorced and choose to come to a conference together, I applaud you! That takes a lot of work to be there to show support together. I will not choose a parent’s side in a debate, and if you push the issue, I will choose your child everytime. Also, if you have a problem with the teacher and aren’t able to speak to them as a professional, schedule a separate meeting and request administration. These conferences are not the time and place to bring up how you think reading logs are a psychological game that is damaging your child.
  9. Volunteer. Class party? Volunteer! A special event happening at the school? Volunteer! Teacher asks for paper towels or AA batteries? Volunteer! Ask if you can help grade, put up boards, cut papers, read or do math drill with students. Become an active member of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA). The more you are around the school and in specific classrooms, the more you will understand what is happening. You will build a better relationship with your student and their teacher in the process.
  10. Know that we love your child. All of the teachers that I spoke with specifically on the topic of conferences all stressed this. We love being in the classroom! Every morning, it is your child and what we are going to teach them that makes us get up and get to work. It is the “Ah-ha!” moments throughout the day that we drift off thinking about at night. We share good times and hard work. Sometimes there are tears. Lots of times we share laughter. Years after they have left our classroom, we think about them and wonder how they are doing. They become one of “our” kids.

Parenting is hard. Teaching is hard. Helping humans become their best takes all of us doing our best every day. Thank you for letting us work with you to build your child into the best possible version of them they can be.

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