Across our country, schools have routine Parent Teacher Conferences. The timing of this event may vary based upon each district’s calendar but the event itself has probably not changed over many years. Like many educators, as we strive to innovate our schools, I also recently asked the question “how do we maximize our Parent Teacher Conferences”? Below is an overview of the guiding framework we implemented to create a positive and information sharing event for students, staff and parents.
Culture is a reflection of the school community as far as the attitude and interactions of all of those involved. Building a positive culture is a series of intentional interactions focused on what is best for kids; that must involve the parents as well as the students and teachers. We took our Parent Teacher Conferences as an opportunity to build our culture and gather feedback as we continue to strive for excellence. This included:
- Innovating the format of the Parent Teacher Conference to include students. This included the following:
- Student Led Conference – Encouraging parents to bring their child to the conferences so that the discussion included the student. If parents and teachers are talking about the student – why not involve the person that everyone is trying to help?
- Student Showcase – Creating a portion of the event as a “Student Showcase” where teachers display the student learning that is occurring within the classroom. This may include student work samples, videos, products, models and more. This allows the parent and student to have conversations about the learning and a better understanding for parents on the skills being developed by the student.
- Building Relationships with your Parents – Conferences are one of the few times most of your parent community is within your building. It is important to maximize and further strengthen the connection with families and be authentic and create strong relationships so they see you, the administrators, as real people who care about their child. We did this 2 ways including:
- Meet N Greet with the parents – We had our parents enter only through the front entrance and our administrative team sat right there at a table as they entered. This allowed us to meet and greet each parent and have real conversations. Parents appreciate seeing the administrators but they appreciate even more a chance to get to know them as real people and having conversations with them about their child.
- Parent feedback – As parents entered and we had conversations, we also shared how important it was to get their feedback about our school. This reinforces how it is a school-parent partnership and gives the parents opportunities to share ideas and concerns. We had computers set up and encouraged parents to complete a quick survey as they waited to go to conferences. This allowed us to get a significant number of responses on our work as a school and provided great insight that will help determine our next steps.
- Move beyond the grade to student learning – Deep Conversations about student learning is the emphasis of our conference. At our school, we always share how “our students are more than a test score” – they are people who we strive to get to know in a supportive environment while developing key content and essential skills. Our purposes is to prepare the students for anything in their lives – not just the next grade. It is natural to discuss briefly the grade and missing work. However, it is more essential to find out how a child is progressing with their skills, how they respond to challenges and how they interact with others. Here are the types of questions we provided to our parents to ask of our teachers during conferences:
- How well does my child work with others?
- How would you describe the work my child produces? Is it of high quality or does it seem to be rushed and not thoughtfully done?
- How well does my child communicate to his peers and to teachers?
- How does my child handle challenging tasks and/or failure?
- Does my child need extra help in any areas or do you think my child needs any enrichment?
- What is an area my child struggles in (academic or social/emotional)? What strategies are you trying and do you have any suggestions how we can help our child at home?
- What is a strength of my child (academic or social/emotional)?
Culture is the most significant factor influencing the success of a school. This involves our parents and partnering with them to meet the needs of their child. The new format and adjustments we made to Parent Teacher Conferences allowed us to meet our student’s needs, strengthen our relationships with our parents and get their feedback. All of this work will support us as we strive for excellence.
I look forward to hearing from you regarding your view of how to maximize Parent Teacher Conferences. Comment below or reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org