Preparing for a Parent Teacher Conference

Before the first parent teacher conference of the year, there are many ways parents/caregivers can and should be involved in their children' early childhood education. At a home visit, the family has an opportunity to get to know the teacher in their own home environment. 

Parents should also have opportunities to volunteer their time in the classroom. Here they will learn from the teachers as they model appropriate interactions with children. Parents also have a chance to see what is normal and get a glimpse of typical early childhood development while they are in the classroom. parent teacher

A quality early childhood program will have it's doors open to parents and caregivers so they can visit the classroom whenever they get a chance. Some programs arrange special activities for the children and families or parents to do together. 

Most educational programs of any nature hold a parent teacher conference one to three times each year. A parent teacher conference for a preschool child differs from a K-12 conference in several ways.

Typically the teacher and family members become a team with common goals well before the first conference. Parents and teachers work together to make a plan to help a child "Be all s/he can be" in these early years. We want the parents to help us get to know everything we need to know to help the child reach his potential in all of the developmental areas. 

Parent Teacher Conference Preparation

Teachers prepare best for the parent teacher conference by doing all of the things they would normally to assess and plan for the children on a daily basis.  They do observations of the child throughout the day every day and write anecdotal notes. 

As the teacher reviews her notes and compares the information to her assessment tool continuum she knows what to plan for the child. She collects samples of the child's work like writing, drawing, dictated stories etc. She takes photos or videos of things she can't physically collect. 

In a quality early childhood program, the teachers know that giving children grades or any kind or comparison to other children is not helpful. Some parents would like to see such a device. Small children, however,  benefit more when teachers tell their parents what skills the child has and what skills the child should work on next. Teachers should be open to input from parents as well. 

Before the conference, teaching teams should meet to discuss all of the children.  One teacher, assistant or aide may know or have observed something about a particular child that the rest of the staff had not.

  • Gather information and samples to show the parents. If you don't want parents to take your samples, let them know you will provide them at a later date (end of the year).  Perhaps you can take a digital picture of the samples to keep on file and give the originals to the family.

Many good assessment tools will contain a parent report form for you to use summarizing the information from your anecdotal notes.  If you create your own parent report be sure to paint a picture for the parents showing the child's entire scope of development. 

  • Copy the Progress Report If you use a progress report of any type, be sure to provide the parent with a copy of it to take with them.  We typically provide a copy at each conference and then give them the original at the end of the year.
  • Be sure to include positive things. Present the information  in a friendly context. Always allow plenty of time for conferences. I usually planned a half hour for each conference. Parents of preschoolers often have a lot of question and concerns. You certainly don't want them to feel like your are rushed when talking about their child. 
  • Dress in a respectful manner but remember that some populations are easily intimidated by authority figures (Yes, even preschool teachers!) So keep that in mind as well. 
  • Notify parents well in advance so they can plan for their parent teacher conference. Then close to the time for the conference, send out reminder notes or call parents to remind them. When parents arrive for the conference greet them in a friendly manner and have your information prepared and ready to share. 
  • Share Common Goals.  We do not want to put parents on the defensive. A child's first school experience will be so much better if the parents and teachers work as a team and share common goals.  Be sure to prepare a list of things you would like to ask the parent. What do you do when Johnny doesn't want to eat? Do you know if there might be something bothering Susie? Sarah seems upset when she first gets here in the morning. Could you send a picture of yourself  for her to keep in her pocket?

During The Parent Teacher Conference

I have, in the past used a simple form for creating goals for the child with the parents during conferences. I always had some things written down that I wanted to share but filled the form in with the parents help. I usually wrote in one color of ink to show whether the information provided came from the teacher or parent. If you should choose to do this you may need to promise to send a copy home for the parents the next day. 

The planning form had four vertical lines dividing the page with four headings. 

Strengths and Interests              Needs                Goals            What We Will Do            Results

Under the heading "What We Will Do" we sometimes would put things like this:

  • "Parents and teachers will read to Joey daily."
  • "Parents and teachers will encourage Linda to do things for herself."
  • "Parents will try to put Keisha to bed earlier."
  • "Teachers will provide a break for Sandy when she seems overwhelmed."

I am sure you get the idea.   At the next parent teacher conference we could fill in the results part and talk about the progress the child had made. The joint planning explained above can be veryparent teacher conferences time consuming. It is helpful if you have something such as a photo album or video to share with the parents while you write the information on the planning form. 

It is best to arrange a special conference if a child has some challenging behaviors. Teachers would prepare pretty much the same way for this parent teacher conference (or team meeting).  Of course you would not focus quite as much on all domains. Here again you would be positive and offer information about the child's strengths and ask parents for their input. 

Increase Participation in Conferences

There are several ways you can get a bigger percentage of parents to participate in parent teacher conferences. The reminder call or note will help. Be sure to plan each conference at a time and date convenient for the parents. I usually allowed parents to bring their children with them. (Yes, even if they had several children). I know, this can be somewhat distracting but at least the parents are involved. 

If you allow parents to bring children to conferences have some high interest toys available. (Possibly at a separate table) Play dough, legos and markers work well unless the parent brings a toddler. If there is some reason you believe the parent can't or doesn't want to come to your classroom for a conference offer to hold the conference somewhere else. (McDonalds has a nice playland.) 

For an effective parent teacher conference, keep the following in mind: 

  • Be prepared
  • Be friendly
  • Be a team player
  • Be accomodating 
  • Be open to parent input 
  • Be aware of parent concerns 
  • Don't be defensive
  • Offer useful information
  • Enjoy the experience!

10 Tips for Parent Teacher Conferences

For my article on 10 tips for Parent Teacher Conferences, CLICK HERE!

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