Why Parent Teacher Conferences Can Be So Difficult

Photo "Parent/Teacher conferences" by Matt McGee on Flickr

Parents come to parent/teacher conferences to ask why. Why is my student achieving at this level? Why did you give my student extra time on these assignments? Why did you not do more for my student? These questions can be hard to answer.

Coming to conferences prepared, as the teacher, can also be very challenging. When you have dozens of students, it can be difficult to keep track of everything that's going on with them. Not because you don't care, and certainly not because you aren't paying attention, but simply because it's just too much. If you don't have a way to log the events that are happening in your classes - like exceptions to assignments, excuses, extensions, and explanations - you should really start one.

It comes down to meaningful data, not just data. It is easy to point at a student's grades over the course of the semester or year - some gradebooks offer a handy little line graph showing grades over time - but interpreting those in ways that parents can remember and act on is not. Parents will (if they come to parent/teacher conferences) speak with several teachers, and the discussion when they get home will most likely revolve around a few aggregate points rather than specifics, making it difficult for them to build an academic strategy with their child in your class.

Consider sending each parent that comes a brief summary of what you talked about once you're done meeting. Continue the discussion afterwards to ensure that what you talked about was meaningful, and rest assured that the parents you work with know that you are prepared.

Photo "Parent/Teacher conferences" by Matt McGee on Flickr