As fall and spring mainstays, most schools employ parent-teacher conferences as face-to-face opportunities to share student progress with parents. While the pandemic required creative alternatives to the traditional parent-teacher conference, the following strategies are helpful for both virtual and in-person conferences:
In Four Tips for Successful Parent-Teacher Conferences for Heads, ISM offers conference advice for heads that would also apply to division directors. They suggest that heads set goals with families and faculty, provide mentorship opportunities for new teachers, make themselves available on conference day, and ask parents for feedback to improve the process.
The Child Mind Institute and school psychologist Andrea Canter offer advice in Teacher Conferences — A Guide for Parents that can be shared to help parents prepare for an upcoming conference. They encourage parents to talk with their child before the conference, review any materials the school has sent home, and prepare a list of questions.
Understood.org echoes the advice above for parents in 9 tips to make the most of your parent-teacher conference. The article includes a downloadable worksheet parents can use to prepare for a conference.
Great for new teachers, Mastering the Parent-Teacher Meeting: Eight Powerful Tips, an article on the Western Governors University website, offers advice on developing partnerships with parents during the conference, encouraging teachers to be proactive and work with parents to create an action plan.
Teach.com reminds us to maintain the three Ps: Be polite, positive, and professional to set the tone for a parent-teacher conference. How to Make the Most of Parent-Teacher Conferences suggests creating an agenda for the conference and sending a list of discussion topics in advance to parents. This article has been updated to take the pandemic into consideration, offering additional resources for parents and teachers.
The KidsHealth article Parent-Teacher Conferences: Tips for Teachers suggests teachers pose a simple, open-ended question like, “Does your child like school?” and follow up with, “Why?” or “Why not?”
The Resilient Educator offers 15 Tips for Leading Productive Parent-Teacher Conferences. These tips include reminders to be aware of body language and to encourage teachers to sit side-by-side with parents, creating a non-threatening environment that promotes a partnership between parent and teacher.
If you are an NAIS member, you’ll have access to this recording with Rob Evans and Michael Thompson: Less Stress, More Success: Managing Back-to-School Nights and Parent Conferences for Maximum Impact. The pair reference their book Hopes and Fears: Working with Today’s Independent School Parents and discuss back to school nights, parent conferences, and ways to deliver hard news about a student. “Teachers have to create an uncomfortable moment and be able to sit with it.”
Will you continue to offer virtual parent-teacher conferences? Many schools found great success with the pandemic-induced virtual format. The post Virtual Parent-Teacher Conferences on The Friendly Teacher blog describes a strategy where students create a virtual introduction to the meeting by writing a digital letter to their family, answering a few questions about themselves, and including a selfie. Downloadable templates and a parent survey are included.
Guidance for Student-Led Conferences
Many schools have moved to student-led conferences. The following resources offer ideas and guidance in developing your own student-led version of the parent-teacher conference:
Scheduling conferences for numerous teachers and multiple students in 20-minute increments can be tedious. The following tech platforms can make scheduling conferences a breeze: