How to Make the Most of Parent-Teacher Conferences

190 parents in 12 hours? Done.

It’s that time of year: parent-teacher conferences! On the WeAreTeachers HELPLINE! this past week, the question of how to have an effective and efficient conference came up. Seventh grade science teacher Doreen wrote in with the following question:

“I teach 190 students, and parent-teacher conferences are coming up. We only have twelve hours to meet with parents, so I have about five minutes with each set of parents. How would you best use that short of amount of time to have a meaningful meeting?”

Great question, Doreen! Parent conferences are a great way to keep parents updated on their children’s progress, but we know all too well that the time constraints are real. Here’s some advice from our community of teachers.

Provide paperwork that anticipates—and answers—common parent questions.
“Make a paper that covers class expectations, class rules, home support for parents to know how to help, testing rules and expectations, and your contact information.” —Jessica R. Total time saver!

Come prepared.
“Have an idea of what you would say for each child before the parents come in so you’re not put on the spot and scrambling for something to say.” —Aaron M.
“I make notes prior to the conference to keep myself focused and on-topic. Then I check it off as I go and give the slip to the parents as a record for them to remember what we discussed.” —Lisa J.


Keep it simple.
“Talk about any concerns you have as well as their grades.” —Matt S.
“I love this formula: start with your main concerns, ask the parents to address their main issues as concisely as possible, and end with an upbeat comment!” —China R.

Let the parents take charge.
“We were strapped for time as well, so instead of the teachers beginning the conversation, we asked the parents if they had any concerns. It went much smoother that way by getting straight to the point.” —Stacey S.
“You might start by presenting a printed grade sheet and maybe a folder or portfolio of their work, letting the parents look those over, and then letting them lead with their questions and concerns.” —Madeline K.

Always open on a positive note.
“Remember to start your conversation with something nice about the student. I sometimes forget to do this after the first couple of hours!” —Carol L.

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