The Importance of the Parent-Teacher Conference

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The first parent-teacher conference of the year may initially be uncomfortable for both the parent and the teacher. However, a well-conducted conference will move beyond grades or problems that the student may be experiencing. It might be a time for the parents to share their knowledge of their child, including their hopes for the child's future. It could also be an opportunity for the teacher to increase the parents' awareness of their child's classroom experience and how the child relates within the school environment. There are several things that both parents and teachers can do that may help make conferences more successful. Some of those include:

Before the conference:

Plan ahead; schedule a time that is convenient for both of you and have the conference in a location where you will not be distracted.
Limit concerns; decide to discuss only two or three areas.

Clarify who will be present; let everyone know who will be at the conference and why (e.g., perhaps the principal, or special education teacher, or student should be involved).
During the conference:

Be polite, personable, and positive-remembering the three P's may help everyone relax and adjust to the other person's communication style.

Avoid lecturing-keeping comments brief will give everyone present an opportunity to share information.

Give examples-providing specific examples or anecdotes of the child's work or behavior helps everyone to understand the concern.

Develop common goals-acknowledge what each person can do to support the child in the areas of concern.

After the conference:
Follow-up-following up with either a written or oral communication or "thank-you" is important for an ongoing supportive relationship.

Schedule another conference-if anyone present feels that there is need for more discussion or evaluation of the common goals that were established, then another conference should be scheduled soon.

As parents and teachers grow in their ability to work together, respecting their mutual roles as equal partners on the child's educational team, then conferencing and communication will become easier.

For more information on parent conferences, see:

Parent/Teacher Conference [Editor's note: this link is no longer available 4-17-2000]

TIPS-Conference cues [Editor's Note 6/30/00: is no longer available]

Robinson, Sandra L. (1997). Parent conference tips. Teaching Pre K-8, 28(1), 78.

Prepared for Parent News by Anne S. Robertson.
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