Now that we have had the opportunity to get to know our students, it may be time to schedule conferences to discuss some of the concerns that you may have about the academic or behavioral success (or problems) of your students. It is far easier to talk over problems and concerns early in the year when the solutions are still manageable rather than later when students are struggling under a huge burden of months of failures.
Teachers who want to communicate well with parents or guardians realize that what they want is to be reassured that their child is doing well and can succeed in school. Even though this may not be the current state of affairs with their child, families want teachers to work with them and with their children to make this happen. We need to connect solidly with the parents or guardians of our students if we intend to create a positive learning climate in our classrooms.
One way to have a beneficial conference is to make sure our goals for the conference are clear.You should present yourself to parents or guardians as a friendly teacher who has their child’s best interests at heart and parents should leave with a sense of satisfaction because all of their questions have been answered and all of the points they wanted to cover were addressed. In addition to specific goals for a meeting with parents or guardians, there are lots of other steps that you can take to ensure that the conference is friendly and productive.
- Be considerate. Meet the visitors in the school office and escort them to your room unless you are sure they know the way.
- Be prompt.
- Greet them cordially and express your appreciation for the fact that they came to the conference. This will create a tone of goodwill that you should strive to maintain throughout the conference.
- Do not try to impress parents and guardians with your knowledge of educational terms and jargon. Use language that will make them comfortable.
- Begin the conference with positive remarks about their child. Talk about the student’s potential, aptitude, special talents. Focus on strengths even if the reason for the conference is a serious breach of conduct. Do not lose sight of the fact that this child is very important to the parents.
- Convey the attitude that the child’s welfare is your primary concern.
- State the problem in simple, factual terms and express your desire to work together on a solution for the good of the child.
- Allow upset or angry parents and guardians to speak first. After they have had the opportunity to say all of the things that they have probably been mentally rehearsing on the way to school, then and only then, can they listen to you or begin to work on a solution to the problem.
- Show examples of the student’s work that illustrate the problem. If the problem is not directly work-related, be prepared to discuss specific examples of misbehavior.
- If this is a problem that you have talked about before, perhaps informally or over the phone, share any improvement.
- Be specific about what you have done to help correct the situation.
- Listen to the parents and guardians. If you want a solution to the problem, give them your full attention throughout the conference. Your nonverbal language is crucial to the success of a conference. Be attentive, friendly, and positive.
- Encourage parents and guardians to express their ideas. You need their insight and help.
- Ask questions that will direct their thinking. These questions can also keep everyone focused on the problem at hand and on solutions to it.
- Summarize the points of the conference at the end. Be sure to outline what you will do and what they will do to help their child be more successful in school.
- Determine how you will follow up on the conference and keep them up to date.
- Express appreciation again for their concern and the time they have spent with you in the conference.