Teaching With Excellence In Mind

It is time to Meet the Parents

Reduce the Stress and Increase the Impact of the Parent-Teacher Conference

Fall is in full swing – that means midterms for college kids and fall break for most K-12 students. This time of year brings some homework for parents, too.

Many schools offer mom and dad the chance to meet with their child’s instructors around the midpoint of first semester. Every district handles parent-teacher conferences differently, as do families. But the research is clear: parents show up. According to the most recent available data from nonprofit data bank Child Trends, nearly 9 in 10 parents attend parent-teacher conferences each year.

Nearly 9 in 10 parents attend conferences with their children’s teachers each year, according to Child Trends. (Photo Credit: Bill Shaw/WTIU News)

And often, if its a couple’s first child – or a teacher’s first year at the school – the whole encounter can be pretty nerve-wracking.

All this week, StateImpact will take a closer look at parent-teacher conferences and talking to experts about how to make them less stressful and more impactful.

First up, how can teachers maximize their interactions for parents, as well as for their own purposes in the classroom?

For advice, we turned to Kathy Nimmer, Indiana’s 2015 Teacher of the Year. She has a few simple tips for teachers:

1. Do your homework

For the most part, parents only hear what their child remembers – or decides – to tell them about their day at school. As the teacher, Nimmer says, you should come to the discussion armed with a full picture of what you see coming from the student.

“When I began conferences I took a whole Saturday afternoon to go through all of my students, look over their grades and make some notes on each individual,” Nimmer says.

That includes academic performance as well as pertinent social information, Nimmer adds. She says teachers’ should also take note of any grade patterns or inconsistencies, and any trouble spots they may have noticed the student might need extra help with.

2. Start with the positive

Before diving into any gray area, it’s always good to reassure parents that their child is progressing. Nimmer says offering honest, candid feedback on the things their child has done well so far is a great way to start.

“Every student has good things and those things need to be acknowledged and not just as filler but as true, authentic parts of that individual,” Nimmer says. “That parent will know that you are paying attention to that individual and that you know the child as a person and not just a name in the grade book.”

Even body language counts in these early instances, Nimmer adds.

“I always start with a smile, thank you, I enjoy having so-and-so in class,” Nimmer offers. “The eye contact, the good posture, no crossed arms…all of those positive things for a business meeting are good for that conference as well.”

3. Stay composed

Sometimes you’ll have to touch on topics that can be a bit uncomfortable, and may elicit reactions from parents that you didn’t expect. Nimmer advises teachers to stay calm and aim to make the conversations productive, not a tug-of-war.

“Don’t take anything personally if the conversation gets tense, because the parent just wants what’s best for the child as well, but they might not have the best way to express that desire,” she says.

Nimmer adds that having proactive plans of ways to move forward can help ease the tension.

“So if you say, ‘this child is doing poorly on vocab[ulary] tests,’ have at least some thought on how that can be made better,” Nimmer offers. “Suggest things like flash cards, or writing the words over and over, or practicing saying the words at dinner.”

4. Use the meetings as a tool

Don’t forget: these are called parent-teacher conferences for a reason – the educator is an equally important part of the equation!

In their “Tip Sheet for Teachers,” researchers from the Harvard Family Research Project remind instructors that these meetings should be a two-way conversation:

The parent–teacher conference is not only an opportunity for parents to learn from you, but for you to learn from them. Nobody knows your students better than their families. Their insights into their child’s strengths and needs, learning styles, and nonschool learning opportunities can help you improve your instructional methods. Your efforts to better understand their aspirations and perspectives make parents feel respected and build trust with them.

Nimmer says the meetings became a highlight for her because it was a chance to put the pieces together.

“I see these beautiful young people in class and don’t know what their home lives are like,” she says. “Certainly in a short conference I can’t get that entire picture, but I certainly can learn more about what makes them tick because of what situations are around them at home.”

About H. W. Lang Middle School

Up Coming Events

Oct. 13th: Parent Teacher Conference Night

Oct. 13th: Report Cards Issued by 4th Period Teacher @ Parent Teacher Conference Night

Oct. 14th: Remaining Report Cards Issued by 4th Period Teacher

Oct. 16th: Secondary Fair Day – School Holiday

Oct. 21st: Common Assessment #2

Oct. 22nd: New Teacher Meeting for all New and Novice Teachers 4:00 p.m till 5:00 p.m.

Oct. 23rd: Homecoming Dance @ Lang

Oct. 24th: Academic Boot Camp (Saturday School)

Oct. 24th: PD @ Ann Richards @ 9:00 (Metacognitive Strategies for ELLs)

Oct. 30th: Region 10 Compliance Videos Due (All Staff and Faculty Members must complete these)

Parent teacher conferences - How to have productive meetings
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TEI News for Teachers

How to Understand the October 2015 Paycheck
Teachers eligible for an upward adjustment in their 2015-16 compensation based on 2014-15 evaluation results will see the additional, pro-rated amount reflected in their October paycheck. A sample statement of earnings can be found here. Click here for a few reminders regarding October paychecks.

New SLOs for teachers impacted by leveling must be submitted by October 23
Teachers whose assignments are impacted by leveling must create a new SLO that aligns to their new teaching assignment and student population. Here are some helpful resources.

Distinguished Teacher Review Criteria & Application Training
Criteria: DTR intends to identify around the top 20 percent of teachers across the district. For this reason, the top 25 percent of teachers from every teacher category who meet these criteria were invited to apply.
DTR Application Training: Click here to register for an upcoming training.

Fall administration window for ESTAR/MSTAR now open
The fall administration window for the ESTAR/MSTAR Universal Screener is now open through Friday, October 16, 2015, for ALL students in grades 2-4 (ESTAR) and grades 5-8 (MSTAR). The universal screeners and diagnostics can be accessed here. If you have not received your student login information, please contact Lucy Ford. For more information about ESTAR/MSTAR, click here.

New Reading Language Arts Curriculum Resource
Text sets are being created for grades 3–12 for each six weeks and will be available on Curriculum Central and Schoolnet for use by Reading Language Arts teachers.

2015 ACP Fall Film Festival
Evaluation and Assessment & Teaching and Learning are hosting the 2015 ACP Fall Film Festival for the first semester tests. For more information including dates and registration deadlines by grade and subject, click here.

Professional Development Workshops
Classroom Management: This workshop offers strategies for creating a classroom conducive to learning.
Elementary: 10/7/2015, 10/13/2015, 10/14/2015
Secondary: 10/13/2015, 10/14/2015

High School Teachers Only: Teachers will receive the most recent updates from the Legislature as well as explore instructional strategies and best practices for the assessed curriculum in Algebra I, Biology, English I/II, US History
Dates: 10/6/2015, 10/15/2015


October 15

Compensation adjusted upward for select teachers based on 2014-15 results

October 23

New SLO submitted for teachers impacted by leveling

November 5

1st DTR Application Deadline

December 15

SLO Goal-Accomplishment submitted (one semester course only)