Parent Teacher Conferences

Posted Date: 1/6/2011

Parent Teacher Conferences

Regular parent-teacher conferences for all families are an essential building block of home-school communication. Parents provide important perspectives and information that can be extremely valuable. Teachers need the help of parents to do the best possible job of educating every child and can help parents play an active role in education at home. Conferences are a time for listening and sharing. They can reinforce the idea of working as a team.
Conferences also provide an opportunity for teachers to explain the criteria and grades used on report cards. In fact, many schools schedule conferences right after a reporting period. Some use the conference itself as the means to distribute report cards.
Conferences are successful when teachers and the school system create a climate that invites collaboration with parents. Creating this climate involves planning and effort. The following suggestions indicate ways teachers can maximize the effectiveness of parent-teacher conferences.
The role of teachers in arranging conferences involves planning and preparation. Some tips on preparation include:
  • Contact parents well in advance to arrange the conference.
  • Send a personal letter or make a phone call outlining a specific but brief agenda that will interest the parents.
  • Indicate that individual conferences are being held with all parents, and how important they are.
  • Encourage parents to review class work brought home and to note questions, concerns, and comments to bring to the conference.
  • Confirm the conference time by letter.
  • Prepare for the conference by developing a conference folder with samples of the student's work and a list of the teacher's concerns and questions.
  • Create a comfortable and private physical environment with enough adult-sized chairs and no desk separating teacher from parent.


During the Conference

Establish Rapport With Parents--Develop a relationship with parents by asking them about their work or about an interest you may know they have.
Accept Parents as Advocates--Provide parents with opportunities to speak about their children. Do not interpret a parent's advocacy as belligerence or as a criticism.
Emphasize the Positive--Indicate appreciation of the unique qualities of the child.
  • Research suggests that parents use a teacher's knowledge of their child's personality or interests as a screening device. They are more willing to listen to a range of feedback about their child if they hear the teacher comment on the child's special qualities first.
  • Recount a brief anecdote or story about the child before sharing positive or negative information on the child's performance.
Establish Priorities--Pick one or two areas for growth and improvement so that parents are not overwhelmed.
Learn From the Parents--Together, parents and teachers make a great team for student learning.
  • Involve parents in creating solutions to problems.
  • Devote at least half the conference to parents' concerns, ideas, and questions.
Action Steps--Close the conference with some action steps.
  • Identify concrete suggestions for how the parents and the teacher will together help the child.
  • Emphasize the parents' role in the education of the child, and ways the teacher can assist them.
  • Provide resources and materials such as booklets that families can use at home to build student skills.
  • Give parents specific times when they may call you.
  • Plan to meet again if advisable.

After the Conference

  • Keep brief notes about the conference; follow through and remember parents' concerns.
  • Note and address any suggestions made and questions raised during the conference.
  • Keep parents informed of any steps that you or other school personnel have taken and follow up with parents on actions they were going to take.
  • Share non-confidential helpful information about students and their families with colleagues, and seek the same from them.
  • Contact other school staff where issues discussed involve their work.
  • Follow-up the conference with a phone call or a note to all parents to show commitment to working as a team.
(These tips for successful parent teacher conferences come from "Reaching All Families: Creating Family-Friendly Schools," a publication available at no cost from the Partnership for Family Involvement in Education, 600 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, D.C. 20202-8173.)
Another helpful resource from the Family Involvement Partnership for Learning is a brochure, "Team Up for Kids! How Schools Can Support Family Involvement in Education." You can request a copy of the brochure from the partnership, or by email from Missouri NEA.


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