I am currently on a “dinner” break (dinner in quotes because I have no food!) on my last day/night of parent/teacher conferences for this fall.
For all the anxiety I have before each conversation – and the days leading up to it! – I really find these conferences SO valuable. Sometimes it is because of the parents you meet and you are like “OH! THAT is why your child is the way they are” (good or bad!), sometimes it is for the insight into what is going on in the child’s whole life (like finding out that mom just moved in with her boyfriend and that child is having some trouble adjusting. Sometimes it is so valuable because I’m able to connect my goals and hopes for the child with their parents goals and hopes for them, or help support them in something that is important.
I always start my conferences the same way – I ask about what the student is like at home. I tell them that I know the school version of their kid, but I want to know how they would describe their child outside of school. Sometimes I hear things that just confirm what I see at school, sometimes it surprises me and gives me some real insight.
I always end my conferences the same way, too – I ask what 1 hope/wish/goal they have for their child this year. It doesn’t have to be school related, just whatever. This one can be really powerful – last year it totally changed my way of approaching one child when a mom told me that she really just wanted him to feel like he was worth something. He WAS, of course, and I made sure he knew it after that.
Before conferences I always worry that I don’t have any thing cutesy planned. I love seeing things on blogs or pinterest where they have little treat bags for parents or creative ways of showing student work. Maybe some day in the future when I feel richer or like I’ve got more time I will attempt some of those things (because they are adorable).
I show a little bit of student work but I really just have a conversation with the parents. I tell them what I’m seeing academically and in terms of work habits and behaviors. I ask them questions and I answer theirs. Before conferences begin I focus so much on my notes and the information I have to tell them, but I think I might reframe my thinking and start thinking of conferences as my time to find out what I want/need to know.
At the end of each day I usually feel really happy and hopeful. It feels so good and right to connect with these people who mean everything to the students I love.