Parent-teacher conferences can be intimidating for new teachers. I remember well my first parent-teacher conferences. I was excited to meet the parents, but had never been instructed as to what was actually supposed to take place. I noticed other teachers getting materials ready, but I wasn’t sure what materials they were gathering. I did have standardized test results from fall testing, but I didn’t really know how to use them at that point in my career. I had failed to collect work samples, and I didn’t have any anecdotal records. I was flying by the seat of my pants, and I had no frame of reference for what I should be doing to prepare.
If your parent-teacher conferences are coming up soon, here are some materials that you should prepare in advance to give you confidence in yourself and allow you to display your professionalism to parents.
- A list of the appointments scheduled–in order–with both parents’ and students’ names listed alongside appointment times. Children do not always have the same last name as the parent. Heads up! Keep it out on your desk/table during all conferences.
- A clock where you can see it at all times. Parents who run over their allotted times often anger others who are kept waiting. You must be in charge of the time unless the school sounds a bell or tone to signal the start/end of the conference.
- Folders of student work samples–in separate folders, marked with the student’s name, stacked in the same order of the conference schedule
- A pad of paper/notebook that you can make notes in. If the parents request that you move Jimmy’s seat, write it down. Because there are so many conferences, you may forget who asked to have their child’s seat moved. This reassures parents that you will act upon their request.
- A seating chart or student desks that are labeled with the students’ names. One year we had changed desks ON THE DAY OF CONFERENCES! A parent asked to see “Becky’s” desk. We opened every single desk and could not find Becky’s things. I was totally embarrassed.
- Standardized test scores if applicable in the student’s folder.
- A checklist like the one here. Should the conversation begin to lag, you will have student behaviors to reference.
- Any anecdotal records you have kept. For example, you may need to reference documented student behaviors to support your claim that Toby has been having trouble getting along with others on the playground.
- A recent student report card or the grade for the particular class you teach
- Your grade book–electronic or hard copy
Now let’s suppose in the flurry of activity at the beginning of the school year, it never occurred to you to keep student work or anecdotal records. If you have even one week before conference, collect work samples now. Between now and conference day collect the following work samples:
- Writing sample–Information can be gleaned about spelling, punctuation, penmanship, and ability to express oneself in writing
- Math homework–whatever topic you are currently working on, get a sample of the student’s work; Is the student struggling with addition facts, multiplication, word problems, etc. ?
- Reading comprehension evidence–worksheets from science, social studies, or reading class will suffice
- A sample of his/her best work; a sample of work that could use improvement
How can I get all this, you ask? Start Monday morning. Set aside a few minutes of class time to gather this data. You do not want to come up empty handed on conference day! Even if you do not have enough time to go over all the information you have collected, you will be well-prepared for the task at hand. This will speak volumes to parents!
In my next post I will discuss how to conduct the actual conference and some issues that often arise. YOU CAN DO THIS! Start preparing now!