Parent-teacher conferences can be a challenging time for all involved: the parents, the students, and the teacher. The parents may or may not feel comfortable in the classroom due to a bad experience as a child or lack of communication from previous teachers. The student is worried about getting a bad report (even the honor roll students). The teacher is concerned about confrontational parents or no-shows. If all parties involved are well-informed and are made to feel a part of the child's education; hopefully, none of the above will be evident in this quarterly meeting.
It is imperative that communication is made to be a vital part of the child's learning year, and by every teacher he or she has had. Although, the current teacher can not control what has happened in years past, he or she certainly can be the changing factor this year. Begin the year by inviting parents wholeheartedly into the classroom to see the daily events and routines. While some parents may welcome this route, others (who may have to work or do not have reliable transportation), may opt out of these visits.
The teacher must try another route to make contact. Start next with monthly good behavior phone calls. Please do not (I repeat – do not), mention anything other than the good behavior, even if something just happened that day. Make the call short and sweet. Parents will be surprised and pleased that the teacher is calling for something other than bad news and will start to associate friendlier feelings toward the teacher.
Lastly, do not allow for any surprises. Semimonthly, send home a progress report. Even if the parent gets an automated call or email listing students grades. Do it anyway. It is that extra step which will make the parent feel as though you are really trying to get the message across. That way, come conference day, the student and the parent will already be aware of the current grade situation and hopefully will be able to meet to discuss new goals and strategies to achieve those goals.
By working together, instead of separately, all parties involved in the parent-teacher conference will feel important. Many things involving school are all about feelings, rather than black-and-white grades. It is as important for the teacher to understand background, families, and individuals within the classroom, as it is for the child to know how to add or spell. Both go hand in hand.