Tips for Successful Parent-Teacher Conferences

I'm not gonna sugar coat it. I have to be 100% honest. Here goes...

I hated doing parent-teacher conferences. Yup. I used the H word. #sorrynotsorry

It really has nothing to do with my kiddos or even the parents. It's just that I already have a million things to do. I am barely staying afloat. Having 25 meetings was just completely overwhelming. 

Besides complete exhaustion, I struggled with balancing being sensitive and being honest when talking to parents. I only have 10-15 minutes. I couldn't spend all of that time telling parents how much I loved their child. I always felt like I had to get to the weaknesses and goals quick or we wouldn't have have time. Many parents don't like hearing about weaknesses. 

I have had parents cry during conferences. I have had parents yell at me during conferences. I even had a parent threaten to sue me. No joke.

I have learned a few things after having some bad experiences with conferences. I can't promise you that a parent won't get upset with you, but hopefully these tips will make conferences just a tad easier!

1. Use Sign Up Genius

When I first started teaching, I would send home a paper that listed our conference date and asked parents to fill in their top three possible conference times. Then I would take all of these and try to make a schedule that would make everyone happy. WHAT WAS I THINKING!

You don't have time for this craziness!

If you have never used Sign Up Genius, you NEED to! You can set up times that you have available for conferences. You send the link to parents and they choose a time and sign up. It even sends them a reminder email when the date gets closer. 

Did I mention that it is free?

2. Ask About Concerns BEFORE Conferences

Conferences are kind of like doing improv theater because you never know what the parent is going to say, but you will have to respond immediatly. There is nothing worse than a parent showing up for their conference and surprising you with a concern that you aren't prepared to talk about. 

Send parents an email. 

"Dear Families,

I am so excited to meet with you next week to discuss your student's progress and goals for this year. In the meantime, can you do me a favor? If you have any specific concerns that you would like for me to discuss with you during our conference, can you please reply to this email? I will look into your concern and offer suggestions when we meet. Our conference time is so short and I want to be certain that we have time to address these concerns.

Thank you so much!"

When parents email back, you will have time to get data, get suggestions, find resources, talk to the student, etc. 

The conference will be quicker and you won't feel unprepared.

3. Have Real Data to Show

If you take the time to prepare properly, conferences will go so much smoother. Making time for the preparation is key. Start early.

I like to start by filling out THIS conference form for each student. 

Students are all so different and so their goals should be different too! Don't just make a list of the grade level standards. Take a moment and really think about social, behavior and academic goals that would benefit this one particular student.

After filling out the form, gather data for each of the students' goals. Data will decrease crying and arguing during conferences! 

Some data is easy to find. Perhaps the students' goal is to learn the first 300 sight words. You probably know that is a goal because you have already tested the student. You can share the number of sight words that the student has already mastered. Easy.

Other data is trickier, but so important. Let's say that the student's goal is to stop talking out of turn during work time. Collect data for one day. Keep a sticky note on your lanyard and make a tally mark every time that the student talks out of turn. At the conference you are able to say, "For example, last Wednesday, Jenna talked out of turn on eight different occasion." This helps parents to really understand the problem.

Data is important, but make sure that you are not talking in teacher language! Get rid of all of the acronyms and talk to parents like they are real people.

Make a copy of the conference form before the meeting. It will make it easier to prepare for the next set of conferences! You can update their goals rather than starting from scratch. 

Let parents take home a copy of the conference form. This makes it easier for them to share with their spouse. As a parent of four, I totally get mixed up after going to all of my kids' conferences! 

You can grab the free conference form by clicking HERE.

4. Give Resources

I always want to try and make parents a part of the team. Not every parent wants that, but I am going to put that ball in their court.

After I have shared student goals and data, I like to give parents some ideas for how they can help their child to meet these goals. 

If the child needs to work on sight words, I might give them some sight word flashcards or a list of the sight words. If the student is struggling with reading comprehension, I might give the parent a list of good grade level books and some questions they can ask their child while reading. If the child is struggling with math facts, I might suggest the xTra Math website. 


Don't make it seem like you expect the parent to do all of the work! Some parents will think that you are passing the buck and expect them to do the teaching. Trust me. This has happened to me! 

Make sure that you share with parents the things that you plan to do in class to help the student to meet their goals. 

5. Stay Organized

I suggest having a file folder for each student. You can throw papers in there from time to time to make a portfolio of student work. I like to include some writing samples and a few tests. 

The work in the folder helps me to fill out the conference form. When completed, I  throw my conference form in the folder. 

I print out my conference schedule from Sign Up Genius and put my folders in the order of my conferences. 

I am able to give the entire folder to parents during our conference. I don't always have time to go through every paper in the portfolio, but at least parents have something to bring home. I know that some will never look at it, but most will appreciate it!

You can grab the free portfolio covers by clicking HERE.

6. The One Thing You Need to Say

Do NOT forget to tell every parents that you are so happy to be their child's teacher! And mean it!

Their child may challenge you, but you are lucky to have them. They are helping you to grow as an educator. If you don't feel that way, you need to have a heart to heart with yourself. (Please don't hate me for saying that.)

Don't let a parent leave without knowing that their child is loved in your classroom.

I hope that these tips make your conferences a little easier and more meaningful! Good luck friends!

Have a Not So Wimpy day!