Tips for Teachers
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Parent-teacher conferences can be a positive and powerful experience for both parents and teachers alike. A parent-teacher conference is a powerful tool that hopefully helps everyone involved. Although apprehension might play a part in both the minds of the teachers and the parents, there are a few small and simple steps that can be taken to help alleviate the anxiety.


Give Ample Event Notice
Give plenty of advance notice about the parent-teacher conferences, ideally via multiple means. Consider school websites, team newsletters, emails or phone calls. Don’t rely solely on students to notify their parents of the conference details as the message may not quite get through. Students having problems may not want their parents too involved.


Consider approaches that require active acknowledgement from parents to ensure they are aware of the event. Place a note advising parents they may lose subsequent interviews if they fail to attend their first scheduled. This statement alone encourages punctual parents. It also allows teachers the freedom to take a quick toilet or other break if they are advised one of their interviews has already been flagged as a NO SHOW by previous teachers - i.e the onus is on parents to attend from the start of their assigned schedules.


Mention that photographs of the event may be taken, and request parents actively advise if they do not wish this to occur (as opposed to asking parents to actively allow photos as people often prefer to leave things unaswered unless it is an issue). Even if no images are recorded, this consent is important for privacy reasons should photos be taken. Photographs of events are a good way to demonstrate parental involvement with the school. This serves as a very positive message to other prospective parents - or those who do may not normally attend. These images may be posted on the school website or newsletters. Encourage a solid connection with parents at all levels, and show your school is alive!

Consider the season when deciding when to hold the event. The middle of winter may be less appropriate due to bad weather and cold temperatures. Certain days of the week may be less appropriate to hold the event due to other, external activities that cause parking restrictions, such as the regular Wednesday night football nearby.


Consider daylight saving so there is more light available. Consider what is occurring in the school. Holding an evening immediately prior to a major assignment due date may be less ideal than after the date has passed, as the student’s performance on this project can be considered for discussion during the evening.


Remember that parents are not as familiar with the school as you are. Print maps where possible, showing room locations where teachers will be situated on the night, or where parents should park. Consider signage up around the school to facilitate movement by parents. Consider locating teachers closer together if they share common roll classes, to reduce the need for parents to move around on the night.


Adhere to Timing
Stick closely to the advertised interview timetable. Assign someone to be a time monitor and ask them to provide a “two-minute warning” so the conversations can wrap up properly.


Set a timer at the beginning of the conference and make it very visible so everyone knows exactly how much time they have throughout the meeting. Make it impossible for people to overlook the time instead of trusting everyone has a watch and will abide by the advertised schedule without assistance.


Ensure parents are clearly advised the reason for a tight schedule so they understand the importance. Ensure parents know they can always schedule meetings at other times If they feel the interview will not provide enough time to discuss certain issues.


Plan Key Discussion Points
Plan key points regarding what will be discussed by staff. Suggest all teachers follow a roughly suggested format for the discussion which may assist parents as they speak with many teachers, and also ensures items are less likely to be forgotten.


A defined pattern will appear more organised and will also be slightly more efficient. A planned conversation structure may also help adherence to strict timelines, as progress is easier to gauge.

An example of a broad format may be the student’s attendance, followed by their academic performance, behaviour, areas in need of improvement, strategies for parental support, then finally upcoming dates and events.


Be Positive
Always begin and end with positive comments about the student. By appearing relaxed, you will promote this in the parents who may be nervous. Be very open and actively invite them to discuss things with you rather than solely providing information to them. Actively inquire about the student’s home life outside school to demonstrate further interest if time permits.

During the Conference
Consider offering soft music and sweets as well as tea and coffee. Conferences can be a stressful for parents, particularly if they have just rushed from work. Don’t be afraid to use light humour where possible to put parents at ease.


Consider setting an environment that will facilitate a relaxed, focused attention to the conference aims. Dress nicely parents are looking at you and the school as much as discussing their child’s performance and behaviour.


Greet parents warmly. Show the child’s classroom work to them during the conference. Advise them what plans are in place to resolve any issues, and set goals for improvement.


Don’t just hear what parents have to say, but actively focus on listening to them, especially towards the end of the night after many interviews have taken a toll.