How do parents feel after conferencing with you? Have you ever asked parents for feedback after these sessions with you. A few months I remember reading the following on Twitter ” I remember receiving an email from a parent. She wanted to brag on one of our folks. She wrote, Every time I talk to your teacher, I feel better about my daughter’s future.” Think about that. Educators don’t just make a difference for kids; they matter to parents too! via Danny Steele (@SteeleThoughts)
So…reflect on his words and and answer this question: Do parents feel empowered or defeated after conferencing with you?
As my district prepares for upcoming Parent/Teacher Conferences, I find myself asking this question more and more often. When was the last time you sat back and thought about the impact your words make when discussing the thing that parents care about the most…their children. I remember when I first began my career in education almost twenty-five years ago. My mentors told me that a conversation with parents should always begin and end with something positive. To this day, I still follow this advice because my goal is to form a partnership with parents. I know this cannot happen if parents leave meetings with me feeling defeated about their children’s fate or future in my class.
Parent/Teacher Conferences: Don’t Let Your Biases Cloud Your Judgment
“Parents send the best they have to school. Just like teachers, they have high expectations for thier children and want them to succeed academically”, Teacher must examine their beliefs and refrain from making assumptions based on their perceptions ” (Jami Fowler-White, 2020, p. 106). We all have implicit biases which creep into our thoughts and influence our actions without us even being aware of them. If you haven’t read the latest research on bias, I recommend Jennifer Eberhardt’s book, Biased and The Skin You Are: Colorism in the Black Community by Dr. Frederick White.
Consider these reflection questions while examining your current approach to parent/teacher conferences:
How effectively do you believe your current parent/teacher conference practices are?
Do you regularly conference with parents or just stick to the standard one conference per semester?
What is your method for following up after conferences?
How much time do your routinely spend in parent/teacher conferences?
Are students invited to attend?
Have you considered allowing students to lead these conversations with parents?
Suggested approach to conferencing with parents
To truly make a difference in a child’s academic progress, teachers and parents must build true partnerships. According to the Harvard Family Research Project “family engagement is not a single event. It is a shared responsibility in which regular two-way communication insures that the student is on track to meet grade level requirements. It is founded on trust and mutual respect and acknowledges that all families have the goals, values, and skills to help their children succeed from preschool through high school, and beyond” (Weiss, 2015).
Two-way Communication is the key
Weiss’s definition outlines two-way communication as one of the characteristics of true family engagement. When you think about it, traditional parent/teacher conferences set the stage for this type of relationship. Authentic relationships take time. Just like we plan community builders or getting to know you activities with students. It is essential that we take the same approach with parents. Each conversation should leave parents feeling better and better about their children’s future and your ability to help strengthen children’s academic foundation. Don’t fall into the “time trap” when parents feel rushed it can damage and often prevent the much needed two-way communication needed to foster parental assistance throughout the year.
Where we often fall short is placing a time-limit on these conversations with parents. You can’t put a time-limit on building relationships. What takes only moments with some parents may take an hour with others.Tweet
Educators should spend the first month of school intentionally planning meetings with parents and working to build relationships.
These relationships are crucial to the success of each child. Think about it. Speaking to parents about their children provide you with so much insight on the child, their past academic history, and their life outside of school. This information is essential in setting goals and enlisting parental support throughout the year. If you would like to add more strategies for building positive relationships with parents, see Educator Reflection Tip #72.
- Adams, C. (2020). What Research Says about Engaging Parents
- Fowler-White, J. (2020). Educator Reflection Tips, Volume 1: How often do you reflect on your practice?
- Fowler-White, J. (2021). What engagement strategies are you using with parents and students?
- Weiss, H. (2015). Reimagining Parent Teacher Conferences