Random Thoughts On Parent-Teacher Conferences

Let’s be honest.  How many teachers (and parents for that matter) enjoy parent-teacher conferences?  I mean really, really enjoy them?  We don’t usually get to have conferences when things are going well.  Wouldn’t that be great, though?  Imagine that phone call:

“Hi, may I speak to Mrs. Jones?….I’m calling to see if you might be available to meet with your child’s teachers….Johnny is doing such a great job, we just wanted to sit down with you, and tell you how amazing we think he is!”

It’s more likely that the reason for the meeting is Johnny is failing classes, acting up, sleeping, bullying, or one of a list of issues that needs addressed.  It’s really no wonder nobody likes attending these meetings.

I’ve been thinking lately about how important these meetings are to the home-school connection.  When we create positive parent-teacher meetings, in spite of the negative topics discussed, we can strengthen our relationships with families.  Allow me to share some random thoughts about conducting positive parent-teacher conferences:

Start meetings with something positive and personal about the student

This could be the single most important aspect of a positive parent-teacher meeting.  Before the meeting officially begins, talk to the parents about something positive and personal about the student.  Ask about last night’s baseball game, or how the trumpet lessons are going.  Bring up the trip the family just took, or maybe the plans the student has for his summer.

Not only does this lighten the mood a little, it shows that you care about their child and have taken an interest in his or her life outside of school.  Oh, and if you can’t think of anything to discuss, that might be part of the issue!

Wait for it!

Wait time is important in parent-teacher conferences.  Parents deserve our full attention when they speak.  When we interrupt them or begin speaking immediately after they have finished, we are saying that what we have to say is more important than listening to what they have to say.

Be patient.  Listen with your ears and your eyes.  Spend a second or two absorbing what is said.  Let the parents know that you came into the meeting prepared to have a conversation, to listen, and to understand.

We’re on the same team!

Above all else, remember that we are all in this together.  Everyone in the meeting wants the same thing – the best for the student.  Although sometimes we disagree, we all want the student to be successful, happy, and eager to learn.  We have to remember, they are bringing us the best kids they’ve got!

Frame it with positive

Finally, end the meeting the same way you began – with something positive.  Let the parents know that you appreciate their time and you are dedicated to the success of their child.




“Burn Your Ships!”


Hernando Cortes (photo courtesy of Photobucket)

Hernando Cortes (photo courtesy of Photobucket)

In 1519, Spanish Conquistador Hernando Cortes landed on the shores of Mexico with 508 soldiers, 100 sailors, and 16 horses, determined to conquer the Aztec Empire, the Western Hemisphere’s most powerful nation.

According to legend, after reaching the shore, Cortes burned the ships to the ground.  He wanted his men to understand their options; win or die.  Retreating was not possible.  One can imagine the result of this action on Cortes’ men.  Knowing their options were limited, the soldiers would fight harder and with more determination.

The intriguing part of the story is not so much the determination of the Spanish soldiers, but the effect of the ship burning on the Aztecs.  After word of the ship burning spread, the Aztecs knew that the Spanish soldiers were literally fighting for their lives, and forcing a retreat was not an option.  The Aztecs were fully aware of the commitment the Spanish had made to victory.

Do They Know You’ve Burned Your Ships?

If you are a teacher, I believe that you have already burned your ships!  You are fully committed to the education of your students.  You pour your time, energy, and resources into teaching, and retreating is not an option.

But do your students know that you’ve burned your ships?  Have you told them that you are fully committed to them?  Do they know that you will never retreat?

Let your students know you won’t retreat:

  • Tell them they are important to you, not just as students, but as people!
  • LISTEN to them and treat them with respect.
  • Don’t accept their excuses.
  • Make it impossible for them to think you don’t care!
  • Help them find their passion.

I know there are other ways to show your students that you are committed to them. Share your ideas in the comments!