Meetings with parents can be a source of worry or concern, even for teachers who have been in the game for years. However, parents play a vital role in a child’s education, so it is important that as teachers, we communicate with them clearly and regularly in a productive way. The key to a successful teacher-parent interview comes down to a few simple things you can do when conducting yourself during the interview:
• Always begin every conference with something positive to say about the child. Remember you are talking to parents who believe that their child is their greatest achievement.
• Be prepared and organised. If the parent asks for an additional meeting during the year (not during regular teacher-parent conference time), kindly ask them what the meeting will be about so you can prepare anything you may need (keep reading to the end to get a freebie to help you with this).
• Arrange a place to meet and sit which is comfortable for everyone. This is particularly important if the student is sitting in on the meeting as well. Arrange the seating to convey that parents and teachers work together as a team to achieve the best possible outcomes for the student.
• Always remember that parents are a child’s biggest advocate. If you need to approach sensitive issues, be considerate of the phrasing used. Sometimes, it may take several meetings to build rapport, in order to take the conversation where you need it to go.
• Always provide possible solutions to a problem by offering ways the school can help, as well as ways parents can support their child at home. If you are unsure of what to do, it is okay to tell the parent you will get back to them with the best course of action.
• Never catch a parent by surprise. If their child isn’t doing well academically, state that their progress is the reason for the meeting. Additionally, a grade on a report shouldn’t come as a shock to a parent, make sure you have been in contact if a student isn’t progressing at the expected pace.
• Always take notes during the meeting or immediately after, so you have a record of key points discussed. If your school requires you to electronically record the meeting do that as soon as possible while it is fresh in your mind.
• It is always okay to ask another staff member to sit in on a meeting. A member of your school executive/leadership team or even a grade partner can be excellent support, especially if you are nervous. Ask them to take notes for you to save you time later.
• Don’t get sidetracked or talk about another child. Sometimes parents can bring up stories or want to compare their child to another. Don’t fall into the trap of talking about someone else’s child. Instead, acknowledge the parent’s concern, assure them you will follow up their concerns but remind them this interview is about their child.
• Make a list of a few ‘follow up’ items throughout the interview. Finish the meeting by summarising what actions are going to be taken next.
• For annual parent-teacher meetings, make sure you keep track of time. Getting off track is easy during a meeting but you need to try and stick to the time limit when you have back to back meetings. Also have prepared notes and keep them in order of your meetings. (Find a template to help you with interview prep at the end of this post.
• Additionally, during the annual parent-teacher meetings I like to give parents a copy of the learning goals I’ll be working on during the semester/year. Often parents appreciate being kept in the loop and can be proactive at home if they wish. As well, it helps when report writing season comes along.
• Work as a team with parents. You both have the same goal!
This final point may be the most important of all. Everyone sitting in on the meeting has the child’s best interests at heart, and that needs to be acknowledged and communicated.
We hope these tips, strategies and freebie assist you when conducting your parent-teacher interviews!
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