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We’re at mid-term at my school, which means we have parent-teacher conferences. I want to point out that parent-teacher conferences look very different at the secondary level than at the elementary level. In secondary, the conferences seem more optional. You could be busy or you could be sitting there alone the entire night.
Parent-teacher conferences as a CTE teacher are a different matter altogether. If a parent is running short on time, they are going to hit up English, math, and science–not my engineering class. That is unless there is some issue with your grading (yikes!).
Today, we’re going to talk about how you can have a successful parent-teacher conference as a CTE teacher.
What To Do Before Parent-Teacher Conferences
This first tip is a recent change that we had to make due to COVID–and it was good.
The tip is: make a video and email it home. Use this to introduce yourself and your course. Give the parents a virtual tour of your classroom/lab/shop. And answer frequently asked questions.
The first parent-teacher conference of the year is more about parents getting to know you. So, lean into that relationship. Even if parents don’t show up, they are more likely to watch a quick video of you that will still establish yourself.
In this email home, you can also talk about your essential standards, goals for the class, and attach a student progress report. Word of advice: make sure your grades are up to date before this email. And especially before the conference.
When I was teaching, I had my students do their own assessment of how they were doing in the class. In this case, my students would reflect on their own learning and send it to their parents–with me cc’d.
Before the conferences, you will want to decide what you would like to share or show parents. Is it printed progress reports? How to use your Learning Management System? A portfolio of student work? All this will need to be ready beforehand.
Have a Plan For What Will Happen During Parent-Teacher Conferences
Nine out of ten times, my students had an “A” mark in my class. There were many times when I didn’t know what to even say to the parents but praise their child. While they liked that, my conversations could have been more meaningful.
Here’s what I mean. Plan out a script or talking points for your conferences. For example, try the following:
- Begin with a greeting and a brief introduction. You can ask if they received your pre-conference email here.
- Tell them your “big rocks” or goals for the class, where their student is, and how you’re planning on helping their student reach that goal.
When I was growing up, I NEVER attended parent-teacher conferences. I don’t know if it wasn’t a thing or that I just didn’t go. Well, now, many students–even secondary students–attend parent-teacher conferences.
Here’s a bonus tip for when a student attends parent-teacher conferences, but you cannot remember their name.
- Create a folder for each class period where you will put printed progress reports.
- Then, on top of all the progress reports, put a copy of your seating chart with student names and photos.
- When the parent and student sit down, ask the student to remind you of which class period they are in.
- Then scan the seating chart to find the student’s name and address them for the rest of the meeting.
You will look like a rockstar to both the student and the parent because you know their name. And you have 180+ students!
Following Up After Parent-Teacher Conferences
Remember all those progress reports you printed? Well, many will be left over after the actual night of the conferences. Go ahead and shed those home. You don’t need to have them returned with a signature.
This is also a great time to send a follow-up email to your parents with your written script. Tell them again about your “big rocks” or essential standards. Your goals for the course. And what you will be doing in class to help students reach those goals.
Let your parents know how they can contact you and what they should expect from that contact. This is reaffirming or setting your boundaries. This post here has more on setting boundaries.
If you would like them to email you, let them know. But also let them know that you respond back during your “office hours” since you are teaching all day.
You can also let them know that if you receive an email after contract hours, you will get back to them the following day.
Be sure to include how they can stay updated on grades and assignments for the rest of the term. Include a video, screenshots, with step-by-step instructions.
Think about parent-teacher conferences in three phases: before, during, and after. Send a video and progress report home before conferences to introduce yourself. Create a script or talking points for during the conference. And follow-up with an email reminding them of your course goals and contact information.