Many parents assume that education stops when their kids leave the classroom. But this can’t be farther from the truth.
Children form learning behaviors that directly affect their academic performance at home. That said, involving parents in their children’s education can help students do better in school.
Parent-teacher conferences (also called parent-teacher interview, parent-teacher night or parent evenings), although they’re brief, are great opportunities for you to build collaborative relationships with your student’s parents or guardians.
Done right, a parent-teacher meeting can help you build:
- Trust and rapport
- An effective progress plan for the student
- An established working relationship as partners in a student’s educational growth
But for some teachers, meeting parents one-on-one can be an intimidating ordeal.
Some parents aren’t as collaborative as others. Some are even too busy to attend. Despite your best efforts and good intentions, they don’t seem to be as involved as you want them to be.
Navigating these hurdles can be nerve-racking or, sometimes, frustrating.
Whether it’s your first parent evening or you’re simply looking for ways to spruce them up, here are simple steps you can do to ensure success in your next parent-teacher conference.
Ready? Let’s go. 👇
1. Make Scheduling Easy
Scheduling for parent-teacher meetings can be tedious for all parties. As a teacher, you’d have to coordinate with hundreds of parents, each with their own appointments to sort out. Back-and-forth emails for confirmations and follow-ups will surely take hours.
A great way to streamline this process is by using scheduling tools like Koalendar when you send your meeting invite.
Koalendar is an appointment-scheduling software that lets you make intuitive booking pages so that parents can easily pick a time that works for them.
Simply input your available time slots and share the link. The platform is incredibly easy to use, even for parents who aren’t tech-savvy.
Parents can reserve a schedule in their own time, and you’ll both receive notifications and automatic schedule reminders. This will significantly minimize time-wasting follow-ups, difficulty in scheduling (and rescheduling), and missed appointments.
Showing consideration and efficiency from the get-go will help you build trust and rapport faster when the meeting arrives.
2. Plan Ahead: Lead With Warmth And Efficiency
Parent-teacher conferences usually last for just 10-30 minutes. Because it’s so short, it’s helpful to plan ahead. This ensures that important issues will be covered before your meeting ends.
- Organize: List down relevant updates, questions, and other things that would add value to your conversation.
- Prioritize: Identify which ones need to be discussed more extensively than others.
- Prepare: Prepare supporting documents, test scores, and etc., that you plan to show.
As the parents arrive, start your meeting on a positive note. An excellent way to do this is by introducing yourself and saying a few kind words about their child. Express how happy you are to meet them and that you’re grateful they went out of their way to attend.
Quick bits of delightful information will also help here: something like, “Did Sally tell you she got the highest score in her English test last week?”
Remarks like these will help parents ease off instantly. They’ll also feel confident that you've been attentive to their child's progress.
Having a clear agenda will help you manage the conversation smoothly and effectively. In case of unnecessary tangents, you can gently steer it back to continue discussing the point at hand.
3. Share Stories, Not Just Grades
I get it. You handle hundreds of students. Plus, there’s a whole line of parents waiting to talk to you as well. It’s tempting to breeze through your parent-teacher meetings by just handing over the student’s report card and expounding on more details as you remember them.
But here’s the thing: If you want parents to keep attending parent-teacher conferences, you’ll need to share more insights than that.
Wouldn’t it be great if you can give them information that’ll help them get to know their kids better? Believe it or not, simple anecdotes can go a long way.
A day or two before your meeting, check your calendar and see whose parents you’ll meet in your subsequent sessions.
Then, take some time to review their children’s works and test results. Think about your encounters with them in class or in other school activities.
Do they like hanging out with groups of friends, or do they seem to prefer going off alone?
Are they polite, or do they tend to be rude?
What are their favorite classes?
What subjects do they seem to dislike?
Try to help parents visualize what their child is like in school. Sharing your observations will surely increase their engagement in your meeting (and future school events) significantly.
What’s more, it’ll show them that you genuinely care about their son or daughter and will make them trust you a little bit more.
4. Communicate Negative Feedback With Tact And Honesty
Unfortunately, parent-teacher conferences aren’t all about fun anecdotes. Along with the good news, you might be tasked to deliver problematic updates too.
Telling a parent that their child is failing in class, struggling to make friends, or misbehaving will always be a struggle.
Naturally, parents are invested in their children's capabilities and accomplishments. Without tact, negative feedback can be taken as a critique of their parenting. Some might respond with anger, and some, with sadness.
When communicating negative feedback, come from a place of empathy and objectiveness. Avoid generalizing. For example, instead of saying: “Your child is irresponsible,” say: “Annie has been inconsistent with passing her homework.”
The first statement is a comment based on your personal opinion. The second is an incident that can be documented and seen.
Often, it’s good to mix the positives with the negatives. But when you do this, be careful about downplaying issues that need to be taken seriously.
Although delivering negative feedback is hard, remember that it’s a crucial step to take so you can adequately address them moving forward.
5. Give Parents A Chance To Talk
As a teacher, you might feel like you need to do all the talking in parent-teacher conferences. At some point, it might even feel more like a presentation than a meeting.
But here’s the thing: If you want to help parents understand their role in their child’s education, encourage them to share their own observations in your conversation.
As you share your insights on your student’s behavior, ask: “Is this something he also tends to do at home?” When your students display particular interests, inquire: “Did she have exposure to similar hobbies before?”
Remember: a child’s behavior in school is only the tip of an iceberg. Before your student was placed under your care, he or she has had role models. Kids receive their earliest education at home. For lack of a better term, try to “compare notes” with their parents to see the bigger picture.
Making an effort to uncover your student’s background will not only help you engage their parents and guardians. It’ll give you a better understanding of who they are and how to help them better, too.
6. Give Actionable Advice
As we’ve already established, your student’s education goes beyond the four walls of your classroom. So, before you end your parent-teacher meeting, don’t forget to identify specific steps both of you can take to help their child improve.
For example, let’s go back to our earlier example: Annie, who has been inconsistent in passing her homework. In this case, you can commit to helping her keep track of them by making sure she writes all of them down in her Reminders notebook. On the other hand, her parents can commit to check her Reminders notebook daily and guide her as needed.
Leaving parents with actionable advice is important even if their child is doing well. Improvement, after all, isn’t limited to those who misbehave or are lagging behind. Achievers also need to avoid complacency and conceit. While it’s good to affirm them of their accomplishments, this is likewise an opportunity to teach them the value of hard work and consistency.
Parents count on you for guidance when it comes to their children's education. Before they leave, make sure that your action points are clear and that you’re on the same page regarding their child’s development.
7. Build A Relationship
For most schools, parent-teacher conferences happen once or twice a year. However, when it comes to working with parents, your partnership as co-educators shouldn’t end when your meeting does.
Before they go, give parents a way to get in touch with you. Assure them that your lines will be open if they need guidance along the way. Likewise, send them updates if there is progress from your end.
If possible, share your consultation hours through an appointment-scheduling software like Koalendar. This way, they know that you’re open to meet if necessary.
Creating a good relationship with parents or guardians can increase the possibility of them following through on your agreed action plans. This will also build trust and transparency, making them more receptive in future school activities and parent-teacher meetings.
Parent-teacher conferences can be challenging for all parties involved. Still, it’s an integral part of your student’s education.
School can teach math, reading, and science. But at home, it’s where they learn what it means to be a good person. It’s also here that they develop a work ethic and learn to deal with failure and accomplishment.
To ensure success, show empathy and consideration from the moment you reach out to schedule an appointment. Streamline the communication process with appointment-scheduling tools like Koalendar.
As you go about the meeting, speak with clarity, honesty, and empathy. Communicate problems tactfully and focus on actionable solutions. Finally, even after your session ends, stay in touch.
It’ll take work to deepen your relationship with your student’s parents and guardians. But if you take the time to pour effort into your parent-teacher meetings, it can surely start there.