Do you hold annual or semi-annual parent teacher conferences?
Many states mandate them, however, whether or not your state or province mandates parent-teacher conferences, I highly recommend that you hold them at least annually!
This is a great way to get to know the parents and build a relationship with them.
Having this relationship early on in the year helps you not only to better know (and therefore plan) for your students, but also helps form a foundation of respect before you have to meet with the parents for other concerns or issues that may come up throughout the year.
Here are some things to keep in mind when planning and holding parent teacher conferences:
1. Be clear about the purpose of the conference
This is a time to get to know the parents, find out their concerns and hopes for their child and to let the parents know what and how their child is doing in preschool.
This is not a time to discuss a specific issue in depth.
A second meeting should be planned to discuss issues or concerns in details.
2. Set a specific amount of time for each meeting.
We have found that 15 minutes per family is more than enough time to cover the basics and talk with each family.
3. Send a brief survey to each family asking if they have any specific concerns they'd like to discuss at the conference.
This allows you to be prepared for questions or concerns they have.
You can discuss the concerns briefly at the conference and follow up with details at a later time if needed.
4. Ask families to attend the conference without their child or provide child care.
It is best to NOT talk about the child in front of the child.
What may seem like everyday discussion to adults can be un-nerving to children.
They know you are talking about them and that places a lot of stress on them.
If parents must bring their children, provide for activities for the child to do in a different room than the conference is being held.
Of course, be sure the activity is supervised by another provider!
5. Keep in comfortable.
It may be an every year occurrence for you, but it is the first time parents have met with a teacher for their child in many cases!
Make this an informal and comfortable meeting.
Don't sit behind a desk, that is very intimidating for parents!
Have comfortable ADULT sized chairs facing each other.
Perhaps have a small side table for your papers or folders that you may need.
6. Have a clear outline of what you will discuss.
Try to keep to the points you want to make, covering any concerns that the parent may have told you about in the preconference survey.
This will ensure that you stay on track and not forget to talk about what you had planned to.
7. Provide a copy of a developmental progress report
This does not need to be a "report card".
Simply a list of items that you are working on in the classroom and whether or not you have observed those items in the classroom with this child.
Be certain that the items on this list are developmentally appropriate.
If an item is not, it should not be on the list.
Anything on this report parents will assume their child should be doing.
For example. If you have listed "prints first and last name" or "ties shoes", parents will think that is a goal for their 3 year old, and it should not be! You can always write in "ties own shoes" under a heading of "self help skills" or write in "prints first and last name" under "fine motor" or "writing" skills.
Want ideas for Developmental Checklists?
8. Leave time for the parents to talk!
Parent teacher conferences are a great time to listen and get to know family dynamics as well as the family's hopes, concerns and expectations for their children. We can learn a lot be learning to listen!
9. Respect the clock!
If you have scheduled each parent for 15 minutes of time, stick to that! There is nothing worse than sitting outside the classroom for 35 minutes past the time of a meeting, especially when the parents have children at a babysitter's or with them! I recommend setting a timer to keep you on track!
10. Begin and end positively.
We all tend to remember the first and last things discussed in conversations. The same is true for parent teacher conferences.
The parents are digesting a lot of information when you are discussing developmental goals. Begin and end the meeting on a positive note. You could share a funny and cute story about their child to begin the meeting and end with how excited you are to have their child in the group.
Remember that parent teacher conferences are very big deals to parents, no matter how informal they are. You are setting the pace for your relationship with this parent for the rest of the school year and when held on a regular basis, they are one of the best teambuilding actions you can take as a preschool teacher!
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