This week, we will have parent-teacher conferences at my school. Although there is always a certain amount of nervousness that comes leading up to the conferences, I always seem to come out of them feeling reinvigorated, usually believing the conversations I had with parents have helped me refocus on each student and how their family and I can help them succeed.
I always tell my students that I want and expect them to attend, and in three years, there have been maybe five total who didn’t. Turn out is usually very high among my students and their parents.
I like to think of the conferences as an invitation to converse, instead of a one-way lecture delivered by me.
To that end, I actually send home an invitation in the report card indicating the time and location of conferences. It is, of course, in English and Spanish (other languages, if necessary). I try to get families in the door by promising food (there are few better enticements to anyone than the promise of free food). Even if it’s just snacking stuff, it is anticipated and appreciated and helps create a homey atmosphere.
The invitation and food bring them in the door, but having parents in the classroom (some of them for the first time) is really all about the opportunity to showcase our awesomeness. During conferences, I usually play a slideshow of photos (sometimes videos) of the year so far. I prep students before conferences to show off their work around the room. In the past, I’ve encouraged students to take photos of their family as they wait to speak with me. This year, I think I will leave computers out and encourage students to blog with their families while they wait.
Conferences can invoke dread in teachers, parents, and students. They can be contentious and exhausting (with a full day of school the next day, too!) However, taking the position that they are a chance to celebrate and brainstorm makes a big difference.