It is that time of year again! It is time to meet with parents to discuss their child’s progress. Over the past 11 years of teaching I have made tons of errors when meeting with parents. I have been too academic in my language at some points and I also have not been specific enough on how parents can support their children in other meetings. It wasn’t until I had nephews and listened to my sister describe her anxiety leading up to the parent-teacher meetings that I changed my approach. She was petrified and afraid to ask questions to the teacher. This conversation helped me understand that I needed to change my approach when meeting with parents. I needed to ensure that every parent I meet on interview night feels welcome and comfortable to speak to me about their child.
Below is a template for how I structure all my parent-teacher meetings to ensure that every parent feels welcome and has a voice when we meet.
Greetings, introductions and something awesome about their child:
I begin every meeting with some introductions even if they have met me before. After introductions, I share something amazing about their child. I share something they have accomplished or something they have contributed to our class. I am genuine when I give this compliment. Even if the child is having a very difficult time in class, I find something to share with the parent to set a tone that tells the parent that I care about their child.
Questions from the parents:
Before I share information about their child, I always ask the parents if they have any questions to start. This ensures that we don’t run out of time before their questions are answered. I listen, take notes and clarify while they ask me their questions. After I understand all the questions, I answer them one by one using evidence and examples if required. If the parent does not have any questions, I will highlight one strength of the student and one area of need using evidence and examples.
Specific Ways that Parents can help their child:
In the past, I was really vague when making suggestions to parents. I have learned that picking something small and specific will give parents success when helping their children and therefore feel confident in their ability to help. For example, in the past, I have asked parents to help their child with mathematical problem solving. I have learned that I need to request something more specific as problem solving is much too broad. When I started asking parents to work on skip counting by twos up to one hundred, I could immediately see the results in the classroom and the parents felt like they were successfully contributing to their child’s education.
I thank them for coming and remind them that they can ask me a question any day of the year, any time and that my door is always open. I also tell them how lucky I am that their son or daughter was placed in my class.
Parents are our partners in education. I truly believe that the majority of parents just want their child to learn and be happy while they are at school. However, for those parents that are very difficult to work with due to mental illness, substance abuse or anger management issues ensure that you have support in the interview from a colleague or administrator.
I am wishing you all very successful parent-teacher interviews!