Most parent-teacher conferences are fun and informative for both teacher and parent. But what about the times when you’re delivering tough news about a child’s academic, social or behavioral progress; or when you sense (or know) that the parent isn’t happy with you as a teacher.
Here are 7 tips and a helpful acronym to help you manage those challenging parent conferences:
P is for PREPARE. You should always get organized before conferencing with parents, but with challenging conferences, preparation is key. Come to the conference with work samples, examples and data so parents will see that you can support your statements with clear evidence.
A is for ATTITUDE. Are you frustrated with the student’s lack of progress? Are you worried about getting yelled at by the parent? Are you annoyed with the way the parent is dealing with the situation? Check your attitude before (and during) the conference. Parents are undoubtedly stressed too. It’s their baby you’re talking about! Just take a deep breath, keep the issue in perspective, and remember that you’re all in this together.
R is for REINFORCEMENTS. Ask your principal, the school counselor, or another teacher to join the conference. (Be sure to tell the parents in advance, otherwise they might feel blindsided which would make the situation more difficult.) If the other person has experience with the child, they can weigh in. Or they can just listen and help with problem solving as a more neutral party. This is a must if you’re meeting with a volatile parent, or if you feel uncomfortable in any way.
T is for TEACH. Teaching is your specialty! Challenging conferences offer an excellent opportunity to really teach parents at least one way they can partner with you to help their child. Some parents are frustrated with themselves because they aren’t sure what to do to help.
N is for NIX NEGATIVITY. Even when dealing with the most challenging behaviors or academic struggles, it’s important to communicate with a positive tone. You teach your students about growth mindset so you know that just because a child is struggling with something, doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t figure it out. They just don’t have it YET. Don’t sugar coat important information, but do make sure that when you tell them about the difficulties, you also communicate that you believe in the child’s ability to overcome them.
E is for EXPECTATIONS. Focus the majority of the meeting on discussing a plan for improvement, and outlining your expectations for the child, for yourself, and for the parents. Go over what each of you will do to improve the situation. Be as specific as possible, write it down, and give everyone a copy.
R is for REVIEW AND REVISIT. End the meeting by reviewing the plan. Schedule a date to check in with the parent to see how things are going. Follow through and check in as often as needed to insure success.
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