Parent Teacher Conferences
Plan for Success in Your Parent Teacher Conferences
When I first started teaching, I did not grasp the importance of effective parent teacher
communication to the success of students in our school. After a few Parent Teacher Conferences I realized how critical to a student’s success it is for students to know that parents and teachers are here to support and ensure their means to success.
I struggled during my first Parent Teacher Conference in spite of following the district’s procedures. These included keeping a log of all parent contacts for students during the school year. The log included all parent teacher contacts for all of the students in my roster –Around 150 for a high school teacher. The design of this log is perfect for the administrator that will evaluate your performance. She / he will simply take a glimpse at the log; assess the quantity of teacher parent contacts and checkmark the evaluation sheet. Fantastic!
Not really. When a Parent Teacher Conference comes around; it usually is not a programmed event. Mom or dad get the student’s version of the issues, so dad has to take the morning off. He hurriedly comes in, short on time, and the receptionist calls at the beginning of your conference period. Of course, you are getting ready to modify your lesson plan for the day to make it more engaging for all students. Instead, you have to go through the log, block the names of all other students and make a copy to present to the irate parent waiting at the front office, all of this in the record time of 5 minutes or less. That approach will not work out well for anyone involved, especially the student.
We all need clear rules and consequences to our actions in any social environment. School is definitely the most important setting that the student will experience and where he / she will have the opportunity to learn the limits of freedom and the scope of responsibility in a civilized situation.
Teachers must start the school year on the right path to success by stating in unequivocal terms the class rules, expectations and consequences. Many authors, like Harry Wong, Ginger Tucker and Fred Jones agree on this point. I found that simple is very powerful and effective.
My class rules are:
Speak only in Spanish
A clear three strike process of consequences communicated to all stakeholders, students, parents, teachers and administrators is the foundation of a successful discipline system and the key to productive Parent Teacher Conference’s. This process follows these steps:
Strike 1 Teacher will speak with the student about acceptable behavior.
Strike 2 Teacher will speak with the parent, mom, dad or legal guardian.
Strike 3 Student will be referred to the assistant principal.
The teacher should definitively request a Parent Teacher Conference when the student has struck out. Notwithstanding, the parent, teacher or administrator may summon for a Parent Teacher Conference at any time if the situation warrants one.
So, how did I manage to prepare very well for all my Parent Teacher Conferences in high school? By design, I drew upon my experience as a financial controller, where I had to write reports for the police, for insurance claims, and for human resource reports, including those necessary to fire someone, and in many more situations. There is a better process.
The better process for successful parent teacher communications is as follows:
Step 1 Write a letter to parents at the beginning of the year; load it to your website. Include your class rules, expectations and consequences, grading policies –in particular, simply repeat the district’s grading policy, consequences and opportunities for the student to succeed in your class.
Step 2 Assign “ Responsibility 101” whereby the student will earn the first grade in your class: Read and discuss the rules in class, take the letter home, read and have parents sign the letter and return the following day to teacher. This earns the student a daily grade of 100, 80 if brought in late.
Be relentless in ensuring that you have every single student’s letter in your file. Remember that we are educators and it is extremely important that our students learn how to be responsible for the assignments in class –simple as they may be.
You are on the way to become a Super Communicator!
Step 3 File all of your letters in a three inch, three ring binder, enough to fit 150 or more individual student letters and log. File them by class period, then alphabetically by last name. A sample open format may be downloaded here.
Step 4 Anytime you have a strike, a missing assignment or relevant academic or disciplinary issue with a student, you write a short description of the incident in the student’s individual log sheet. Click here for an open format that I have used successfully –you may want to use a format with checkboxes, I personally found these restrictive and unnecessary. However, you must include as many details as possible for each incident. These must include the date, time, describe the student’s behavior, dialogue, witnesses and opportunities offered to the student. Be specific and objective. Avoid all emotional loading as much as possible. Do not mention any other student by name.
You must have the self-discipline to write every incident down as soon as possible; it is a very important part of your responsibilities as an educator. That way your description of events is more likely to be accurate and complete.
Step 5 Should a parent show up unexpectedly at the front desk, and tell them that they told their boss that they were going to be late an hour to work because their student had an issue with this teacher, you will be able to help them quickly. You get the call from the assistant principal asking you to immediately come to the Parent Teacher Conference for student “Johnny B.” Just grab your binder; if possible slip into the workroom and print another copy of the log. It will be fast because you won’t have to search through multiple logs for individual information and no blacking out is necessary. You are ready to go help that parent!
Step 6 You are now well prepared to explain the issues. You can remind and inform the parents and administrators of the steps and contacts you have had with all of them. You can offer opportunities to help “Johnny B. Good”
Step 7 Lucky 7… you get a nice handwritten note from your principal commending you for the professional Parent Teacher Conference you had that morning. It is will be very sweet, and you can add it to the file. Look at mine below!
Have the best school year ever. Share this article with the superintendent of your school district, your school principal, assistant principal and all teachers ľnovice and experienced.
Alejandro Cardenas, M.Ed. is a passionate educator and owner of The Woodlands Tutor offering private lessons at your own level, pace and convenience.
Contact us now for the practical workshop, Successful Parent Teacher Conferences. 713 412 4577 alejandro@TheWoodlandsTutor.com
Additional articles about Parent Teacher Conferences:
Harvard Family Research Project: Parent-Teacher-ConferenceTipSheet
5 Parent-Teacher Conference Prep Tips