Making the Most of Teacher/Parent Conferences

628x471The Question:

I am looking for ways to have the most meaningful and efficient parent teacher conferences, in very limited, 15 minute, blocks of time.

The Answers:

Cindy

Send home the report card ahead of time so parents are familiar with it and ask them to come prepared with any questions they might have. I have 20 minutes, but that seems to speed things along.

Kyndal Ann

We only have 15 min at my school as well. I have a list of things I want to discuss with my parents and try to leave the last 5-7 mins for their questions or concerns. I also try not to talk too much about something that can easily be sent home in a note unless the parents want to. I try to keep it to academic achievements, areas of concern, and behavior status. If I feel the parents want more time I ask if we can meet again, or try to schedule those parents later towards the end. I put everything I want to discuss in a folder for each child in the order I want to discuss it. I think the best way is to be organized and talk about the most important topics.

Patty

Demand more time…I have 27 students and I give them each 1 hour of my time…I make it work…it is too important to short-change your families!

Abigail

I have a sheet I fill out ahead of time for each student. It has 2 columns “strengths” and “goals” and 4 rows: math, language arts, character ed, test scores. I mainly focus on the goals…what I’ll be working on with their child and how they can help at home. I also have a pile of handouts for the “housekeeping” info. It always takes the full 15 minutes.

Abigail

Wow! An hour? I’m curious what you cover in an hour? I’ve done 15, 25, and 30 minutes. For me, 25 is the ideal amount of time.

Stefanie

I love the 15 minutes we have…otherwise it turns into a counseling session for parents….straight to the point!

Trisha

Stay organized. Get to the point. Have everything outlined that you want to speak about or work/assessments in a folder that you would like to share. Talk about something positive, something constructive, and anything else that you couldn’t send home in a note.

Sara

You could also incorporate student-led conferences. Allow the students to take 15 minutes before-hand and show their parents their “stuff”- work examples, favorite books, etc. and then use your 15 minutes to talk with parents about goals/concerns.

Elaine

I schedule families for 2, 15 minute sets, a half hour is more productive time frame.

Cheri

Goodness, last year I had 29 kiddos. Only 20 minutes per kid. It was tight. Love the idea about sending home report cards and strengths/areas of growth in advance. I’d also pick one main issue for my focal point, but save time for the parents’ issues. Huge issues will need a follow up conference. Next conferences I’d push for more time – you need 25 minutes with kinders.

Rachael

Sounds like my school is similar to yours, where we schedule a conference day to meet with parents. My advice is this – don’t limit yourself to one day. I had to get permission for this, but in the week leading up to conference day, and the week after, I make myself available to parents to meet before and after school, at times that are good for them (but not later than 4:30 on any day). In my experience, I get more parents to sign up for a conference that way, because I am willing to be flexible. And this way, I am able to set the length of each conference to how long I need to spend with each of them. I may not need to spend 20 minutes with Johnny’s parents, but I know I’m going to need an hour with Sally’s parents. You’ll probably need to seek permission to do it that way, but for me, it’s been worth it to stretch it out, and really make sure I give each parent the time they need!

Sue

For PreK I always sent home a pre conference questionnaire which they completed and returned. It helped drive and focus the discussions.

Mary

I retired last year, but in my 22 years of teaching, we always had 15 minute conferences. Our building sent home a  listing of dates/hours of conferences and asked parents to mark their 1st/2nd choice of conference day/time. We usually had 2-3 evenings, or an evening and a whole day, it changed with administration and with our teaching contracts. Often parents would write, “Please schedule me/us after 6pm so we can get to our conference after work.” Or would give teachers a heads up as to the best time within a given block of time, then I tried my best to schedule when they could come. If I had a student that I needed more time with parents, I would block out two conference times for them, or call and ask if we could schedule their child’s conference another evening that week. Also, as others stated–I had a folder for each student with items to talk with parents about sorted in the order of importance, as well as a small table next to me with student journals, etc. (important items students worked in at school that stayed at school) to be able to share with parents to show progress.

Jen

I also sent a pre-conference questionnaire asking parents to identify their 3 major discussion points. Often report cards were given during the fifteen minute conference, so I had several follow up phone conferences to discuss grades

Nancy

Double schedule conferences. They parents come in and meet with you, then the child shows them what they do each day and something they made. (we practice this) while the next parent comes in.

Amy

I have actually used a timer and let them know that every parent’s time is valuable. Most conferences can be done in 15 minutes. Assure them they can schedule a longer meeting another day if they feel their questions remain unanswered.

Tina

We are only given 10 minutes/child!!

Chrissy

We only have 10 minute conferences and they are back to back, too. I send a sheet home that asks parents a few questions so I can know what’s important to them. I have everything I need organized by child & by appt time. I leave the kids journals & some work for parents to look at in the hallway. I set a timer and explain to each parent that their time is important. It is tough but at least I no longer teach half day K (when I had 40 + kids).

Susan

Thank you for all the advice! We have conferences on 2 different late afternoons to early evenings. I always end up scheduling conferences for about 2 weeks after to accommodate each family’s schedule. I have stayed as late a 9:00 P.M. and as early as 6:00 A.M. I have skyped/face timed conferences for parents out of town. Just wish I could find a way to meet all of their needs. We send home report cards about 2 weeks before conferences. I love the idea asking parents what is one area of growth they have noticed in their child, one area they would like to see their child grow, and specific topic they would like to discuss in the following areas: academic, social, emotional/behavior. Then maybe at a spring conference we could discuss the progress of those topics. Kinders just have so much to take in during the first six weeks of school.

If anyone would be willing to share their surveys/questionnaires they use I would be so very grateful!!! Thank you again! You have no idea how helpful it is to know I am not the only one in this boat.

Susan

I have ten minutes with each family. I send home a questionnaire when I send home the conference times . I also write out what I want to say. I have a packet of the child’s work ready for the parents to take home after we look at it and I include a sheet of ideas for helping their student at home in reading and math. It takes time upfront, but I stay on schedule.

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