BE PREPARED AND STAY POSITIVE
Focus on Strengths before Discussing Concerns
- Don't Criticize
- Don't Compare
- Don't Complain
- Invite both parents and contact them early. Send home reminders with ways they can contact you: Notes, email address, phone number and times available.
- Greet parents at the door with a smile.
- Allow enough time to conference but stick to the points necessary to help the child.
- Be prepared and specific with work samples, attendance records, behavior notes, and other data you want to discuss.
- Be ready for questions. You may be asked: "What is my child's ability level? Is my child doing their best? Does my child cause any trouble? What can I do to help my child succeed in school? Does my child have friends at school? Does my child eat their lunch?"
- Ask about the child. What are their interests? activities? hobbies?
- Listen to the parents but keep the conference focused on the child, discussing solutions and collaboration.
- End on a positive note and let the parents know when and how you are available.
- Keep a record of the conference with your notes.
- Follow up.
- Arrive early to find a parking space, sign in, and find the room.
- Bring support. Both parents should attend if at all possible. If not, bring a friend or relative if you feel you need support.
- Be prepared. Make notes in advance of questions or concerns. As a courtesy, you could let the teacher know in advance if you have a serious concern so she give you the information you want to know.
- Address Concerns: Let the teacher know if there is a particular topic you want to discuss.
- Exchange information and let the teacher know of changes in your child's life that may be affecting their behavior or performance.
- Ask: "How can I help my child at home?"
- Take notes.
- Be positive. "How can we solve this problem together?
- Leave with a plan.
- Stay in communication with the teacher about concerns and progress.
Is there a disruptive child in the classroom?
With parents of disruptive children, tell the parents in your most caring manner, looking them in the eye, that you are concerned about their child's behavior. You only want what is best for their child, after all. Be a good listener and you will gain insight as to why problems are occurring. This insight may give you that extra bit of patience to deal with the child's behavior. You may want to ask for permission to have a child tested by the school counselor for play therapy.
Is there a child who may qualify for Special Education?
Inevitably, some year you will have a child who will qualify for special education who has not yet been diagnosed. Gently talk to the parents about your concerns. Never give your personal diagnosis. Sometimes parents already have a feeling that something is wrong and are relieved when a teacher suggests testing. Some parents are offended and are in denial. But testing by a profession clarifies if a child qualifies for special education services. Parent's permission is required for testing, but I never had one decline. Often, they were relieved that help may be available. Documentation is important.
The best advice I ever received was given to me by a District Special Education Supervisor: "Before a parent conference, I say a prayer and then I stay positive."
- Consequences: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (series on discipline)
- Is there a Child with Special Needs in the Classroom?
- The Perfect Preschool and Kindergarten Parent
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What other tips would you like to add?