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With the first assessment term coming to a close end, it is now time to face the Parent-Teacher conference that gives everyone’s stomach a turn in every direction. For me, this nervousness mostly came from the unknown and a lack of experience in how to deal with the good, bad, fabulous and ugly-ness of those conversations.
Now, although I don’t have all the answers, I sought out a lot of help from colleagues and I definitely have some advice for how to get through yours!
- Come up with a ‘go to’ formula that works:This formula is the magic compilation for how your interview is structured. The formula will save you from the awkward small talk, the interviews that never end, and a lack of direction that could turn overwhelming. My formula may or may not work for you but here is what I did to survive:1. Ask the child first how they think they are doing in your class, put the ball in their court. Ask what they like about your class, if they are happy with their grades, if they are understanding things. If you open the floor to the student then it reflects the pressure off yourself. If the student is not here, ask the parents the same questions, they may have something to the point that they want to address right away, make sure you give them the chance to do this.
2. Bring out a grade book or breakdown of their grades and discuss their assignments and tests that they have performed in your class. This gives more points to talk about and can give parents a good idea of where their child is sitting in the class.
3. Once you have shown some pieces of work, it is always good to talk about the break down of the year and discuss what they will be learning about in your classes. This not only invests the parents more in what the child is learning but also makes them aware of what to expect in the future.
4. Talk about areas of improvement. Now I like to call this the sandwich of love. Start with something the child is doing well in your class, fill the middle with some things they need to improve on, and always end on a good note. That way the student, you and the parents will feel positive about the whole experience.
- Make sure you have printed documents to talk about. Have a clear schedule of the interview times, a clear printed breakdown of grades and marks, and some pieces of student work to discuss. If you are not prepared with these things, you will find yourself scrambling during the interview.
- Bring the support in that you need. Asking people like councilors, inclusion coordinators, teaching assistants or administration to come in and sit on interviews is a great idea. Having the extra support you need could go a long way. Just make sure you tell them ahead of time!
- Coffee (or TEA for me;). Bring your favorite beverage into the meeting. If things go good or bad, its always a warm comfort to ease the situation.
If you have any other tips and tricks let me know… I am always open for more support!
PS. When you are a first year teacher planning an amazing race around the school the day of your first set of interviews isn’t the best idea, even if it is one of the best days ever. 15 hour days are hard no matter how great.