Teacher Share: Parent-Teacher Conferences
Spotlight: Mary Wade at Western Kindergarten
Written by Preston Woods
Education research is creating a growing body of evidence that family engagement is integral to student success. Research shows that family engagement improves student’s school readiness, increases student achievement, and improves social skills. Family engagement means that schools are acting as advocates for children’s education by having consistent two-way communication with parents and encouraging a home environment that values and supports learning. Establishing a positive teacher and parent relationship while children are young can help form positive parent perceptions towards school and teachers, and enhances the teacher-parent relationship which can continue for their children’s entire school career.
Parent-teacher conferences are the most effective strategy for promoting family engagement. Most teachers have encountered parents that appear uncooperative or hostile. Some of these parents have a negative perception towards school or teachers, possibly due to their own experiences in school or a previous negative experience with their children’s teachers. The earlier a positive relationship is established between schools and parents the greater the chance of creating a solid school-family partnership for the child.
Mary Wade, a Kindergarten teacher at Western Elementary, demonstrates an exemplary parent-teacher mock conference in the following video.
Notice how she:
...makes an effort to help the parent feel welcome and emphasizes their role as part of a team.
...has a conference sheet prepared to help keep the meeting focused on the students goals.
...starts positive: mentioning a student’s strengths first shows the parent she is not focusing on their child’s problems. Discussing progress helps both parties feel the work they are putting in is paying off.
...explains what she has currently implemented in the classroom to promote the student’s success. This shows the parent how she is making an extra effort to help their child. Explaining the process and purpose of strategies like time-out can also calm concerns the parent might have about discipline.
...asks the parent if she has any concerns before continuing. This again emphasizes the idea of working together to improve the child’s education.
...provides tools and resources to help the child learn at home. This provides the parent with an avenue for working with the child at home and ensures the parent knows what would be most beneficial to work on.
...tells the parent that she is encouraged that they will be working together to help the child move forward. It’s important to keep that positive attitude she started with even after discussing weaknesses and challenges.
...discusses methods of past and future communication. She mentions previous phone conversations and offers to provide more feedback and collaboration with the parent. Frequent updates on a student’s progress sustains the strong family engagement that both parties have worked to create.
Mary Wade’s list of reminders for parent-teacher conferences:
2) Welcome the parent into your classroom and thank them for their time.
3) Sit next to the parent, not across from them. Make them feel like you are a team.
4) Always have a conference sheet with what you are planning to talk about to keep the conference focused. Have several copies for each
5) Always start with the positive. What CAN the child do well?
6) Ask the parent if he/she has any concerns. Address those first.
7) Stop periodically and see if the parent has any questions or concerns.
8) Provide games/resources the parent can use at home. Have them premade and ready to go.
9) When the conference is over, thank the parent for coming and assure the parent that you are going to work to help the child move forward.
10) Tell the parent to call you or write a note if they have any questions.
Example Parent-Teacher Conference Log
Student Name: John West Date: December 8, 2014
I am happy to report that:
John is very verbal and can clearly communicate needs and wants.
John can identify all the letters of the alphabet.
John knows all the sounds for the letters.
What is currently implemented in the classroom to promote success:
Behavior chart modification
Time out modification-5 minutes modified to 3 minutes
Assigned seats in classroom and lunch
Set boundaries at seat and on carpet
He is receiving help with the EIP teacher during reading and math.
Referred to guidance to work on strategies to help him cope in the classroom.
The focus of our meeting is:
to discuss John’s behavior and how it is affecting academic progress
Areas of Concern:
He knows 15 sight words.
He can recognize the numbers 0-10.
He is having trouble blending sounds to read words.
He is having trouble writing sentences that make sense.
Our plan of action:
Center time is differentiated to meet his needs.
He is working one on one with me or the TA every afternoon on blending sounds or sight words. We are going to increase the time.
What you can do at home:
~Play sight word memory-use flashcards provided
~Work on recognizing teen numbers at home using set/number match cards—provided
~Model how to blend sounds together to read words in isolation—cards provided
~Turn this into a game, by having him match the word with the picture
~Use fun writing prompts(provided) to encourage writing at home. Sit with him while he writes the sentence, but do not spell words for him.
~Provide a list of sight words (from take home sight word book) for him to use when writing and encourage him to sound out unknown words.
References on Family Engagement Through Conferencing
Aguilar, E. (2011, September 23). 20 Tips for Developing Positive Relationships With Parents. Retrieved January 10, 2015, from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/20-tips-developing-positive-relationships-parents-elena-aguilar
Ditta, L. (2010). Parent-Teacher Conference. In Encyclopedia of Cross-Cultural Psychology (1st ed., pp. 718-719). New Brunswick, New Jersey: Springer US.
Halgunseth, L., & Paterson, A. (2009, January 1). Family Engagement, Diverse Families, and Early Childhood Education Programs: An Integrated Review of the Literature. Retrieved January 10, 2015, from https://www.naeyc.org/files/naeyc/file/research/FamEngage.pdf
Harvard Family Research Project. (2010, October 1). Parent–Teacher Conference Tip Sheets for Principals, Teachers, and Parents. Retrieved December 1, 2014, from http://www.hfrp.org/var/hfrp/storage/fckeditor/File/Parent-Teacher-ConferenceTipSheet-100610.pdf
Henderson, A., & Mapp, K. (2008). Beyond the Bake Sale: How School Districts Can Promote Family Invovlement. The Evaluation Exchange, XIV(1 & 2), 35-35. Retrieved January 10, 2015, from http://www.hfrp.org/evaluation/the-evaluation-exchange/issue-archive/building-the-future-of-family-involvement/beyond-the-bake-sale-how-school-districts-can-promote-family-involvement
Starr, L. (2005, September 28). Meeting With the Parents - Making the Most of Parent-Teacher Conferences. Retrieved January 10, 2015, from http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr291.shtml