Parent Teacher Conferences

This is the time of year when we have parent teacher conferences. We do this twice a year (once in the fall and once in the spring). For the preschool child, the parents have one question: Is my child ready for Kindergarten? If the answer is no, it shouldn't be a surprise. You should have already been discussing this all along. What this conference should consist of are the skills their child has mastered in order to be ready for kindergarten. You should also discuss with the parents how to help their child transition to kindergarten. At this time, talk to them about what to expect: when the last day of preschool is, if you are having a special event for the children (we have a carnival day) in celebration of this big step, any paperwork they need to have ready to register for kindergarten, if they are going to public school find out which school the child will go to. The more information you give them, the easier this transition will be for everyone.
If you are in a younger classroom which the children will not be going to kindergarten, you still need to meet with the parents to let them know what to expect as well. Are they moving to the next classroom up? Who will the teacher be? Does your center practice continuity of care? How will the class be introduced to the new environment? This is a time that parents will have your undivided attention and be able to ask any questions or concerns they have.
This is also a time for you to find out anything that may be going on in the home. You need to listen and ask questions about home. You may surprisingly find out that the parents are splitting up. No wonder the child has been acting up suddenly.
The best thing someone once told me was this: A parent should do more of the talking in a parent/teacher conference.
There should be no surprises to a parent in these conferences. They already know you are having problems in the classroom; or that they are being extra great helpers. You should be communicating daily! There really isn't any new information the parent should have to hear. But there is lots of new information that the parent has for you. When they drop off and pick up their child, there are lots of ears around and the parents isn't comfortable discussing private family issues with you. In a conference, you have no one else around; they feel more free to talk.

Parent/Teacher conference tips:
1. Make a private space that is closed off and has no traffic coming through. Even if you have to have parents go through a different classroom to get outside to their children, you need to know you won't be interrupted.
2. Have adult seating available. We may be comfortable sitting in those tiny chairs, but parents aren't. When a 6 foot tall dad is trying to comfortably fold himself into a chair 1 foot off the ground, he isn't hearing what you are saying.
3. Don't have any surprises for the parents. They should already know if you are having issues in the classroom. This is a time to discuss your solutions to these issues, not bring them up for the first time.
4. Get the parents to talk. Ask questions that draw information out of them. "Is she writing her name at home?" "When he gets ready for school, do you pick out his clothes?" "Does he have any chores at home?" "What is your typical Saturday like?" "Who puts him to bed? Do you read him a story?" All these will get them to open up. You will be able to assess how much school work is being tied in at home. You may find out that he can tie his own shoes at home, even though he always asks a teacher to do this at school. The child that you think can't write his name, no less recognize it, may actually be writing his name and every one else in the house as well!
5. Enjoy yourself! This isn't a stressful time. This should be a pleasant experience. You may even find out that dad has a hobby of building things and he is more than willing to build you that new coat rack you have been looking for.
6. Have something to give the parents. Give them a piece of art work, have some pictures, put together a small book of samples. I used to have the children help make a book of their work with a cover, writing samples, pictures of them at play, dictation pages, and other fun things. Keep it small, only about 4-5 pages stapled together. You also might want to have some cookies and lemonade (preferably made by the children) as well.

No comments: