A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Tips for parent-teacher conferences

Who doesn't want to make parent teacher conference time go more smoothly?

Let's remember: you've probably worked all day and barely had time to grab a bite to eat, and then you sit and meet with parents rapid-fire in ten or fifteen minute increments.

So here's some tips:
1. Dress professionally in welcoming colors that flatter your skin tone. I like blue or green due to my coloring. Avoid red or black. Think about matadors and bulls, here.

If you can, don't wear your dressy clothes all day-- they will be wrinkled and possibly sweaty if your schools HVAC works as well as mine does. Wear comfortable clothes during the day, and then change after the kids leave.

Brush your teeth before the parents come, too.

2. Some fresh flowers are lovely to brighten up the room, and they smell nice, too, while not being as overpowering as other options to freshen the air.

3. I also like to keep a dish of hard candy (sugar free as well as fully leaded). It's a welcoming gesture.

4. Keep some blank paper or coloring books and crayons or markers for little brothers or sisters who may accompany mom and dad to the conference. This helps everyone concentrate on the conference at hand. Plus I then post those pictures(signed by the artiste) that kids leave me in my room, and you'd be surprised how much my big kids love this.

5.Start out positively. Name problems as challenges. If a kid doesn't turn in work, it's always effective to present a parent with signed "I didn't do my work" forms from the week. I recommend that every students give you either their assignment or one of these forms, so that you have something tangible so that parents can see the extent of the problem.

6. Do not allow one parent to monopolize an hour of your time. Stand up when the time is over, smile warmly, and say, "It's been lovely to speak to you, Mr. Pjhtwy; I hope you have a wonderful evening." And then, if you have to, walk to the door and possibly even out into the hallway.

7. Keep It Simple.

8. Don't argue. Realize that sometimes you and parents will never agree. Nonetheless, it is your classroom, and you have the right to expect reasonable behavior from your students. Do not agree to an intervention that puts the onus on you with all the other tasks you have to do unless there is a component built in for the student and the parents to buy in as well. For example, if the parents have access to grades online, and they actually HAVE that access, hold parents to that rather than agreeing to run a daily or weekly report. If you do that, you're still the only person who appears to care, and chances are the report won't get home anyway.

9. Parents who don't show up at conferences should be contacted via phone or even better email.

10. Prepare yourself to see parents wearing pajamas, parents wearing A-shirts, parents wearing clothing that would make a Vegas stripper blush, parents wearing slept-in sweats and no underwear (don't ask me how I knew this, just believe that I still have nightmares), parents who smell of alcohol and/or marijuana, as well as parents who dress and act professionally. Learn to school your expression so that you maintain outward calm.
Oh, and just because parents are dressed nice doesn't mean that the family is functional.

11. Do not assume that you're looking at Mom and Dad, or that names are the same. It's best to introduce yourself to each person. We have had people who were assumed to be one gender who turned out to be another, so don't make THAT mistake, either.

Oh, and make sure you get lots of rest afterward. You're gonna need it.


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