As teachers, there are some things over which we have no control. For example, perhaps a parent had a difficult time as a student herself, so she finds school-related experiences to be stressful. Maybe a student's parents are divorcing and the home situation is difficult. It could also be that a parent simply has not yet learned good parenting skills, even though they may be trying. And yes, there is the occasional parent who just does not care at all. After 20 years of teaching, however, I think the instances of a parent truly not caring are few and far between.
While we can't change these things, we can certainly change our response and approach to parents to make the relationship more positive and beneficial. Here are 3 ways to improve parent-teacher communication:
1. Begin with the positive.
The way you start a conference or a conversation will set the tone for the entire school year. Keep in mind that every student is someone's child, is deserving of love and kindness, and has positive traits and qualities. Draw on the strengths of the student to plan things to say at the start of the discussion.
I use what I call the 3 to 1 Rule for conferences. For every 3 strengths and positive statements about a child, I will list 1 area that needs work. I actually try to make it greater than 3 to 1, but at the very minimum, strive for 3 positives to every 1 area needing improvement.
2. Get organized.
If you know a student is having difficulty with reading fluency, gather your data and information to support your professional opinion. You probably wouldn't give much credibility to a doctor who told you that you had an illness if he had no test results or data to back up his opinion. Parents need that valuable piece of measurable data to buy in to your viewpoint.
For organization, I suggest having one folder for each student. This folder will be used to drive the conversation and will be sent home with the parent following the conference, so be sure to make copies of papers you need for your own files. Inside the folder, you need to have 2 types of data and information:
- Subjective: Observations, writing samples, feelings, thoughts, strengths, weaknesses
- Objective: Report cards, grades, benchmark scores, standardized test scores, measurable data
It does take time to prepare the folders ahead of time, but you will be amazed at how much more smoothly your conferences will run. It definitely creates a setting for a more productive parent-teacher conference!
3. Follow through.
If you have ever known someone who says they will do something, and fails to deliver on their promise, you know how frustrating that can be. Don't be that person. If you say you are going to call the parent in 2 weeks, make a note and call them. If you promise that you will work on multiplication flashcards with a student for 5 minutes every morning, then do it. If you give your word that you will talk to the secretary about sending a form home, keep you word.
If you want parents to trust you and build a positive relationship, then it is essential that they know you are a person who they can count on. Once the trust is there, you can work much more effectively as a team.
If you are interested in registering for my FREE WEBINAR, "Effective Parent Conferences and Communication - Working Together," please click HERE. In this webinar, I share a variety of strategies and tips to help you approach parent conferencing with less stress!
If you are looking for an easy-to-use Parent Conference Forms Packet, you can find one HERE in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. It is one of my best seller with loads of amazing feedback from teachers who have benefitted from having their most positive, productive parent conferences ever!
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