Monday, January 25, 2010

A Day in the Life of a New Teacher...Parent/Teacher Conferences

Having worked with new teachers for many years, the issues and concerns really came close to home this year as my daughter began her first year of teaching. As a lens on a camera zooms in for a close-up, I've been able to zoom in on the issues and concerns of a new teacher as I've listened to my daughter's concerns and questions. The first topic I would like to write about is conferences with parents. Parents are a child's first teacher. Cultivating close relationships with parents from the onset is one way to begin the year positively.

When preparing for a parent/teacher conference there are many questions to consider...such as:
  • When should you try to meet with parents?
  • What kind of information should you share?
  • Is it important to meet with all the parents?
  • How do you prepare for a conference?

Here are some suggestions to consider:

When should you try to meet with parents? If you are a regular elementary classroom teacher, it is helpful to meet with all the parents of the students you teach during the first few weeks of school (at least within the first six/nine weeks of school).

What kind of information should you share: If you have assessed the children, share the information you gathered--including their children's strengths and the areas of need. It is helpful if parents know the areas in which their child has needs in order for them to support their child at home. More importantly, it is critical to share their child's strengths and ask the parents to help you get to know their child.

Is it important to meet with all parents? It is important to meet with all parents. However, it is may be more important to begin by meeting with the parents of the students who are exhibiting the most concern. If parents can not come to the school, it is important to make contact either on the phone or through a letter. Set a goal to connect with 100% of the parents.

How do you prepare for conferences? This may be the most important question to consider. There may be school policies in which to follow, such as sending specific notes home in advance or gathering information from parents regarding the time of day that best meets their needs. Find out your school's policy and follow it. Gather information about the children through your school's assessment. Spend time analyzing the assessment, looking for the child's strengths and needs. Create an information sheet to record the conference details and ask parents to sign it at the conclusion. If there are specific promotion guidelines, share it with parents at this first conference. It is very helpful to share the materials the children will be using during the year. Having sample reading, math, science, and social studies materials on display is very helpful. Additionally, share any materials created by the child since the beginning of the school year.

During the conference, ask parents:

  • How do you think your child learns best?
  • If you could design any experience for your child, what would it include?
  • What do you think I need to know about your child that I may not have already asked?
  • Will you be my partner this year? Will you stay in close contact with me and let me know if something happens at home that you think will bother your child, such as a family member's death, an illness, loss of pet, etc.?

I hope this information is helpful in preparing for conferences with parents....always remember, they are the child's first teacher!

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