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Tips and Tricks for Parent Conferences

The time is upon us…parent conferences are here! This can either be a stressful experience, or an opportunity to collaborate with parents on their child’s growth. How your conferences turn out will depend largely on how you prepare ahead of time! Follow these tips and tricks along with the FREE form I will give you at the end of this post and you’ll have your most successful year yet!

Parent Conference Environment

Setting your classroom up for comfort and open communication is the first item on the to-do list. Parents should feel at ease walking in and you should too! Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Chairs – provide comfy adult chairs. Don’t make them sit on uncomfortable kindergarten sized chairs.
  • Refreshments – Think about providing water bottles or maybe just a jar of hard candies.
  • Temperature – keep the room at ambient temperature for everyone’s comfort.
  • Clean classroom – make the most out of your little minions and clean before conferences. The half-hour before my kids leave on the first day of conferences we have a wipie party and clean all the surfaces, organize the library, etc. They loved it, and my class looked presentable to parents.
  • Student work – parents LOVE to come in a see their student’s work hanging from the walls. Prepare art weeks ahead of time and have your bulletin boards ready.
  • No kids – communicate to parents that the conference is for parents only. Sometimes it’s the younger siblings that can wreak havoc in your classroom. I once had a 2-year old sibling head straight for the headphones and make a tangled mess in 5 seconds flat. You have a parent’s full attention if kids aren’t present.
  • Kid activities – Just in case some parents have to bring their kids, have easy to clean activities out for them that they can do quietly. I would prefer that kids aren’t there, but not everyone has babysitting options, so be prepared.
  • Extra seating – Put one or two chairs outside of your door for the parents you will meet next. It’s a small touch that will mean a lot.
teacher parent conferences meme

Parent Communication

The more you clearly communicate with the parents the fewer problems you will have. Here are a few things to think about in regards to communication:

  • Confirmation – send an email out to all the parents you will be meeting with the day before their appointment.
  • Teamwork makes the dream work – during the conference using the term we instead of you. For example, we need to help student X work on their letter-sound knowledge. Don’t place any blame, but make it clear that you need to work together for improvement.
  • Feedback form – Give the parents something they can take back home and review when the conference is over (more on this later).
  • Ask – “What questions do you have for me?” Show that you are listening and receptive to their thoughts and questions.
  • Don’t get thrown off – Some parents bring up issues at the conference that you had no idea about and they catch you off guard. It’s okay to write the issue down and say you will look into it further and get back to them. Stay on topic and communicate the student’s results.
  • Partner up – Don’t be afraid to ask colleagues to sit in with you. You might need them for translation purposes or to further help describe observed behaviors. If you think a parent will be difficult, call in some reinforcements. In my role as vice-principal, I did this often. It took some pressure off of the teachers and gave a different perspective to the conference. I wish I had asked for help more in my early years of teaching!
  • Follow-up – Discuss what the next steps will be, what resources are available to them. Tell them when you will be having a follow-up meeting/email/conversation about the issue, and STICK TO THE TIMELINE YOU TELL THEM.
Parent conference meme

Bonus Tips and Tricks

  • Lunch – Eat a healthy and filling lunch before the conferences. I have a friend who likes to skip lunch and take conferences during that time. At the end of the day, she has a huge headache and is a big old grump (surprise, surprise). Fuel up with some healthy protein!
  • Hydrate – Have a big glass of water ready right next to you because your mouth will get dry talking for hours on end.
  • Air – Being the introvert that I am, I can’t help but get sweaty and anxious talking to that many new people. I started putting a small fan right behind me as I did the conferences and it was a game-changer!
  • Dress for success – Dress in your favorite professional-looking attire and consider wearing a little bit of a heel. The way you dress not only conveys professionalism to the parents but gives you confidence and a feeling of control.
  • Jot it down – Keep a notepad right next to you for any other topics of conversation that arise. Like I said before, if a parent brings up an issue, write it down, tell them you will look into it, and continue with the conference.
  • Organize ahead of time – All forms that you might need should be organized in the order of your conferences. You don’t want to be shuffling papers around looking for the right form. You also don’t want to inadvertently share sensitive information about other students as you are rifling through papers.
  • Back-ups – Have password or consent forms available that parents might need. If you’ve noticed that a parent hasn’t logged in to the grading system (ever) have their password available for them. They can take it home with a gentle reminder to check it at least once a week.
  • Don’t run over your time!!! – It’s rude to the parents who are next in line if you run over the scheduled time. If other issues arise and time is up, schedule another meeting with that parent right then and there. Say – “I would love to discuss this issue with you further, but our time is up. When are you available to meet again so we can continue this conversation?”
Parent Conference teacher meme

Clear and Concise

Want some help explicitly informing kindergarten parents about their child’s progress? Check out the free form below that you can use during your conferences. I fill one out for every student. I make a copy of each form and give it to the parents to reference at home. Conferences can be overwhelming, and the parents aren’t going to remember everything you told them. For this reason, having a physical copy to take home with them is imperative.

I have the parent sign the original and keep it in the child’s file. If there are any questions about what was discussed in the future I have backup evidence. So many of my fellow teachers have been caught up in the drama when the parents say “you never told me!” Without written evidence, you have no way to back yourself up. Yes, it’s extra work, but by doing this you will minimize issues and make your life a whole lot easier!

On top of this form, I circle what letters or numbers they still need to learn. The rest of the information is pretty fast to complete. I fill out the longer second page during conferences. I often only send just the first page home for progress reports. It gives the parents a quick snapshot of what their child needs to work on.

Here’s another resource that might help you out during parent conferences:

Best Apps the Learn Letter Names and Sounds (Parent Letter Included)

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