Parent-teacher conferences are one of the most important events in the school year. They offer a great opportunity for parents and educators to communicate and dig deep into the individual educational needs of each child.
But it’s not always plain sailing. With growing class sizes, the time allowed for these conversations is shrinking. It can be hard to cram in all the vital information you need about each child.
Falling behind schedule is a common problem. One over-enthusiastic parent too many and teachers can easily overrun, often to the frustration of those still waiting. Inadequate planning can also leave teachers with too much or too little to talk about—and quickly turn the meeting into an awkward encounter that’s of little benefit to anyone present.
There’s also the issue of not getting the tone right and failing to keep the atmosphere positive and interactive. Mentioning too many negative points or only praising a child without providing pointers on where they could develop their skills can leave parents feeling like they’ve wasted their time by attending.
If you get it wrong, there’s a risk of parents losing confidence in teachers too.
So, with all these potential pitfalls in mind, how can you make your parent-teacher conferences more fruitful?
Ways to improve the quality, efficiency, and experience of parent-teacher conferences
Making sure parent-teacher conferences are beneficial to both parents and teachers involves more than simply opening up a time slot and allowing a conversation to happen.
Schoolchildren are all unique. They each have individual needs that should be discussed to make the most of the meeting.
What’s more, with the rise of online-only students, parent-teacher conferences might need to adapt to cater to a wider range of young people and their families.
Here are five ways to make your parent-teacher conferences more effective.
1. Plan ahead
Planning ahead will help you avoid making generic statements and hone in on the specifics that will be of most value to the child and their ongoing education moving forward.
Key points to discuss should be planned in advance for each child and cover their progress, attitude, and relationships ready for the parent-teacher conference. This is to pre-empt some of the key information parents will seek as well as to help identify any areas where extra support – either at home or in the classroom – might be needed.
Before the meeting, teachers should know which pieces of work to showcase for each child. School management software with a parent portal can be a great addition to a school’s communication strategy. Parents can view important information 24/7 rather than parent-teacher conferences being one of their few points of contact.
As well as providing a solution to manage a range of in-house operations like attendance, this sort of software allows parents to access things such as their child’s work, attainment, and behavior notes all year round.
It can also help educators to be more focused, helpful, and analytical during parent-teacher conferences, as parents are already up-to-date with their child’s school life, making the meeting more useful and less of a once-yearly information overload.
A personalized AI domain can be used for this purpose, so the software looks less generic and feels like it was specifically developed for the school.
2. Set the tone
Everyone has heard of a compliment sandwich.
Parent-teacher conferences are there to create a bond between parents and educators. Building a relationship that’s open and honest, as well as supportive of the child, means teachers may need to be selective in what they say.
It’s important to talk about the child’s positive attributes before discussing any areas where improvement or support may be required. This will help show parents that the teacher has their child’s best interests at heart.
As time is tight, try to share what the parent doesn’t already know, being sure to allow adequate time for questions at the end. While teachers should strive to cover as many bases as possible, most parents will want to ask them to clarify certain comments and make sure they’re heard (after all, conversations should necessarily be two-sided).
It’s important to maintain a professional manner throughout the meeting and to dress smartly.
3. Explain the jargon
With the constant changes in education, curriculums, and assessment criteria, it’s no wonder parents are confused by it all. Knowing exactly what changes have occurred and what they mean can help put parents’ minds at rest.
A school information system can improve communication all year round as updates can be shared more easily. This reduces the need for parents to eat into their already-too-short time slot by asking about these things during the conference.
Most SI systems support a high level of customization, meaning different apps can be integrated to suit the needs of the school. With API fundamentals to support this process, these can easily communicate and share data with each other.
4. Improve year-round accessibility
As mentioned above, implementing good communication solutions in schools can keep parents informed and part of the community. This helps build and maintain strong relationships. If small issues are dealt with quickly, they’re less likely to escalate and become a bigger problem.
Schools should consider the type of phone systems they use to make sure parents can get in touch easily and speak to the right person.
There’s plenty to think about. This article on landline vs VoIP explained by Vonage covers most of the options that are out there.
Making sure you’re easy to reach via email and other channels can also be beneficial to both parents and students.
5. Offer online parent-teacher conferences
Modern family life can be hectic. For parents with demanding jobs or more than one child, attending an in-person parent-teacher conference can be a struggle. Giving the option of online meetings can go some way toward taking the pressure off parents and could improve the number that can attend.
With VNC screen recording, meeting recordings can also be sent out to parents. This is invaluable if only one of them can make the appointment. This means meetings can be used as a point of reference in the future too.
Online parent-teacher conferences are especially important for schools with remote students who may not be able to attend in-person meetups at all.
Parents and teachers all want the same thing from a parent-teacher conference: to help students succeed and ensure they’re getting the right support at home and in school.
To make parent-teacher conferences more fruitful, there’s a lot educators can do i.e. be prepared, be flexible, and maintain a sense of professionalism throughout.
There’s also a lot school managers can do. For example, putting systems in place to make communication accessible year-round. This will enable staff to deliver the most targeted, informative, and useful parent-teacher conferences possible.