“What is my child learning?” “How is my child learning it?” “How can I help my child at home?” “How can I support my child’s education?”
Those are some of the “right” questions parents might ask during an effective parent-teacher conference, according to Luz Santana, co-director of the Right Question Institute and co-author of Partnering with Parents.
Santana spoke with Larry Ferlazzo, host of the “Classroom Q&A” podcast at Education Week Teacher, about “strategies for effective parent-teacher conferences.” They were joined by Leticia Skae, from Metro Nashville Public Schools, and Tara Dale, a high school teacher in Arizona.
While those are some of the questions parents might ask, Santana’s overall advice was, “Rather than giving parents the questions, have the parents ask their own.”
Skae recommended putting students’ work on display for parent-teacher conferences. “The work is a visual cue to the parents for what is happening in your classroom,” she said.
Dale stressed the importance of setting an agenda before the conference.
In secondary school, parent-teacher conferences often arise when there’s a problem with a student (as opposed to elementary school, where such conferences are more likely to be regularly scheduled events).
If the conference addresses a problem, Dale said it’s important to “demand that kids be there” during the meeting. That way all parties — teachers, parents, and students — get on the same page.
Skae recommended starting such conferences by highlighting the student’s talents and positive traits.
Santana said, “Have the parents ask questions” because “it gives the teacher a tool for communicating with the parents” — in the conference and beyond.
Ferlazzo suggested teachers “ask the parents for their advice.”
When it comes to engaging parents in a conversation about an IEP — individualized education program — Santana noted she personally went through that experience with one of her children. The teacher “should show empathy” and assure parents there is a way to help the child, she said.
In addition to the podcast, Santana, Skae, Dale, and other educators provided further advice to the Education Week Teacher blog.
- Podcast: Six Keys to Effective Parent-Teacher Conferences, hosted by Larry Ferlazzo on BAM! Radio.
- More advice: Strategies for Effective Parent-Teacher Conferences, “Classroom Q&A” at Education Week Teacher.