Teaching moments: How to make Parent-Teacher conferences better

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 24 2012 8:00 p.m. MDT

Inviting students to parent-teacher conferences is a growing trend, though. A study published in the Elementary School Journal said such conferences improved communication among parents and teachers and increased "positive conversational style."

Glenn Yetter, a Pennsylvania sixth-grade teacher and educational consultant, takes the idea of involving students a step further by placing his students in charge of parent-teacher conference. He told McGraw-Hill's webinar participants that 90 percent of his students' parents attend the student-led conferences.

Yetter's students create a portfolio of work to show their parents, and set goals for improvement. He also asks them to fill out a report card on themselves (he gives the grades that count, though).

"It's always interesting. Most kids tend to grade themselves a little harder than I do," Yetter said.

"The biggest part is the accountability factor," Yetter said of his student-led conferences. "The student has to take ownership of their learning, and take action for the future."

New directions

The digital age is improving and increasing communication between parents and teachers, said Greg Garner, an educational technologist in Austin, Tex., as part of the McGraw-Hill webinar.

Garner said teachers are using Skype video-conferencing software to increase flexibility around parent-teacher conferences. Skype file-sharing allows teachers to show student work to parents who can't come to conferences.

Endo said the parent-teacher conference is one of many ways for parents and teachers to build their partnership. If Endo has a daily behavior tracking agreement with a parent, she can use her cell phone to text a quick daily message, and even accompany it with a photograph.

"I try to communicate as professionally as I can through emails and phone calls," she said. "I'm a mom too, and I really understand these situations. I empathize as much as I can. But, I also want to let them know I'm the professional."

"'Please trust me,' I'll say. "Your child does act differently here, and that's why this is a concern to me. Let's work together and try and find a solution for this.'"

Teacher tips for Parent-Teacher Conferences

Do more than talk about grades.

Figure out a way to seat parents comfortably and expedite lines.

Let parents tell things about their child.

Share stories about what each student does in class, and display items that demonstrate student learning.

Ask parents how they want to stay in touch, including emails, phone calls and texts. Keep communicating.

Source: Nancy Flanagan, Education Week

Parent tips for Parent-Teacher Conferences

Talk to your child before the conference about how things are going at school.

Make a list of topics you want to discuss.

Give personal insights at the conference about such things as medical issues and emotional upheavals that might affect your child's school performance.

Be open-minded. Parents and teachers form a partnership, so their relationship should not be adversarial.

Leave on a good note, and let the teacher know how to contact you.

Source: U.S. News

EMAIL: cbaker@desnews.com

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