The parent-teacher conference is the single most important way to build a solid relationship for the future of the student. For some, this may be the only time to learn in greater depth about the student and to build a strong bridge between home and school. Unfortunately, this opportunity can be lost if the meeting is one directional only -- meaning the parent or teacher takes command and allows for little meaningful dialogue.
That is why I highly recommend all parties bring a list of topics to discuss that contains a prognosis for future action, should it be necessary. Several good resources cited below offer help in this regard, as well as for dealing with parties who use the conference as a diatribe. After the meeting, I also urge a follow-up discussion to gain feedback about the ideas agreed upon or suggested at the meeting. This can be done through a phone call or e-mail. Teachers should document all discussions with parents for future reference.
A quality parent-teacher meeting results in a plan of action, sharing expectations, and the solicitation of ideas and needs. Using such a meeting simply to impart test results is of no value unless it results in plans to improve or maintain those results. A parent being told their child is in the lower 40 percentile for a subject needs to know what this means, what was tested, and how to make improvements.
These resources may help:
How Can You Deal with Angry Parents?
How to Make the Best out of your Parent/teacher Conferences
Make Parent Teacher Conferences Work for you and your Child
Making the Most of Parent Teacher Meetings
Parent-Teacher Conference Survival Guide - Files and template for a teacher to show parents
Parent-Teacher Conference Tip Sheets - Printable tip sheet includes ideas for administrators as well.
Parent Teacher Interviews/Conferences - Covers meetings with special education implications
Scholastic Parent-teacher Conference Resources - A site for parents to learn how to best use conferences
Teaching with a Mountain View: Parent Teacher Conferences - General ideas for elementary teachers
Working with Parents: Advice from Teachers
Alan Haskvitz teaches at Suzanne Middle School in Walnut, Calif., and makes staff development presentations nationwide. He serves as an educational consultant, curriculum developer, and author.