Parents and teachers conference week can be a brutal challenge with the long days of teaching and the long nights talking to parents. Sometimes I wish I could click Dorothy’s ruby heels to click myself home. I recently survived this physically and emotionally draining week, and miraculously hung onto my health and sanity. This, in large part, was due to the caring, supportive parents who came to find out how their children were doing. All in all, it was a series of remarkably low stress evenings.
Not every parent/teacher conference runs as smoothly. Sometimes parents can have a freak-out moment when they discover their cherubs are failing or disruptive or… After participating in a number of these conferences, I have adopted two valuable practices that have helped my students and me avoid an uncomfortable, confrontational event:
- In my school, students lead their own conference. Students prepare for their conference by creating a slideshow that includes the students’ grades, test scores, accomplishments, goals, and learning adventures. The students begin the event by formally introducing their parents to their teachers; this gives the students an opportunity to polish their presentation skills. Next, students usher their parents to an available laptop and demonstrate their progress. We teachers drop in on these shows to emphasize the students’ accomplishments, make suggestions for learning growth, and answer parent questions. This puts the responsibility on the students’ shoulders and relieves the teacher from having to repeat the same things all night long.
- Teachers, students, and parents are partners in learning, not adversaries. When parents become angry, embarrassed, or upset because their child is less than successful, we teachers are not there to gang up on our students. We are their partners in learning. I tell my students to be prepared prior to a parent conference. If they know they are doing poorly, they should admit it, but explain they have a plan for improvement. Students can share their goals such as seeking help before or after school, practicing their math facts, or spending extra time reading each day. When the students have their action plan ready, most parents will be proud their child is taking responsibility for their actions. I let my students know that I am their champion. I want them to know that I am not there for an “I got you moment,” but that I am there to support and coach them toward success.
What teacher would not prefer to be Glinda over the Wicked Witch of the West? We are not there to sugar coat the problems but to guide students to take responsibility for their learning so we can send them forth on the yellow brick road of success.