This month’s topic for the Compelled Tribe is to write about parent-teacher conferences. I’ve attended many conferences over the years, especially in my role as the administrator of the ninth grade. When teachers hold a parent-teacher conference, the counselor and I try to attend as many as possible. Sometimes, the parent will request a conference, and sometimes the counselor will suggest a conference with all of the students' teachers. I’ve attended some really effective parent-teacher conferences as well as some not-so-effective meetings.
Some of the best conferences I’ve been a part of are when the teacher brings evidence of what the student is doing in class. Some teachers show up with a folder of the students’ tests or an exemplar of a project along with the student’s completed project and the rubric. The teachers who seem to want to partner with the parents are the ones who have taken the time to review the student’s mistakes on assessments to determine where the problems are. Perhaps it’s vocabulary, or perhaps it’s with a certain step in solving a problem. Maybe it’s when the questions ask the students to think critically and apply their knowledge. Once parents (and teachers) understand where the weaknesses are, targeted help can be provided to the student.
When a teacher does this, it also shows that the teacher is concerned about the student as an individual.
When the teacher says, “He made a 62% on the test and the class average is a 83%,” it doesn’t indicate that the teacher has reviewed the individual student’s weakness. It DOES send a message that the teacher is mostly interested in comparing students’ performance.
6 tips for effective high school parent-teacher conferences:
1. Include the student. Students are usually surprised to be a part of the conversation and realize that it’s about how to help the student be more successful, and it’s not about “bashing” the student.
2. Be prepared. Have specific ideas on ways to help the student be successful.
3. Find something positive to say about the student.
4. Share data, not opinions. (“Your child got all of the vocabulary correct on the test, but missed the application questions,” instead of, “I don’t think he’s studying hard enough for tests.”)
5. Make it a two-way conversation. Try starting with, “What questions do you have for me? I want to make sure we make our time together valuable.”
6. Be empathetic. Try to put yourself in the parent’s shoes. By high school, the parent may have been hearing similar messages throughout high school. If you were the parent of the child, what would you want to hear?
As a school leader, how can I help?
Remind teachers to bring evidence to the meeting.
Ask teachers to be prepared for the meeting.
Follow up with teachers and parents (How? Put a future appointment in my calendar to remind me to do a “check-in.”)
What other tips would you add?