Sunday, November 16, 2014

Getting the Most of PT Conferences

It is that time of year. Teachers contact parents and the annual Parent-Teacher Conferences commence. This could be the best, or worst, 15 minutes of your life.

For us parents, at some point in our lives, we thought it would be a brilliant idea to have a child. For some, we thought to ourselves, it would be even more fantastic to have a second. For those that went beyond that, like myself, it had very little to do with the thought process at all.

None-the-less, we have them. And, now that we do have them, we get to love them unconditionally. Because let's face it, they are ours regardless of the ups and downs of their development. The joys of parenting!

As you think about the upcoming PT Conferences and prepare to sit down with your child's teachers, keep in mind that it the relationship with all involved that makes this educational experience what it is. We rely on each other, for good or bad, to ensure the needs of the learner are met.

As you gear up for conference week there is much to consider as both the parent and the teacher.  Therefore, as a colleague of mine, Keith Howell, recently shared in a column on his blog, consider the following as parents: 

·      Be on time for your conference and understand that if you are 5-10 minutes late, then that will affect the entire conference schedule for the rest of the day. 
·      Focus on the 5 things teachers want from parents.
o   Research tells us that there are 5 things teachers want from parents: 
1.       Establish child’s behavior
2.       Initiate warm conversation
3.       Get involved, monitor homework/school work/notes sent home/etc.
4.       Respond to teacher communication
5.       Good health
·      Don’t wait until conferences to provide teachers with a list of your concerns. Waiting months to articulate your concerns will only lead to speculation and negative feelings. Many times a quick conversation or e-mail will answer your questions and put your mind at ease. 
·      Understand educators: the teaching profession is their calling and a life-long journey of learning.  Teachers act out of love for their students and their passion for educating children, helping them become their best.

If you are on the other side of the table and are the teacher welcoming in the parent, his suggestions are: 

·      Say something positive: Show parents that you have a positive relationship with the child.  Show parents that you care about their child as if they were your own.
·      Focus on the 5 things parents want from teachers (see above).
·      Act, instead of react.  Watch body language of parents and adjust if necessary, focusing on positive collaboration.
·      Have some suggestions ready, setting goals for behavior or academic needs.  Know your students and their academic and behavioral characteristics.  
·      Keep to your conference schedule, and if you need more time then reschedule an additional conference. 
·      Let your principal or colleague know if you need support with any of your conferences.  It is always beneficial to work as a team, collaborating to meet the needs of all students.  Parents will appreciate the extra support and ideas to increase learning and/or improve behaviors.  
·      Understand parents: there is nothing more important to them than their children, parents act out of love for their children.  

Even though these interactions are brief they can be powerful. Each party can gain quite a bit of insight on the other person’s lens. The reality is that our children spend an incredible amount of time at school. And teachers often see more of the students during the day than many parents.

If it success we are aiming for then let’s work to get there together.  As parents we can’t give them back and as teachers we can’t turn them away. Make Parent-Teacher Conferences meaningful for all. It is more than worth it!

For more great suggestions, ideas and posts about Parent-Teacher Conferences, check out the blog roll from the #Compelledtribe.

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