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Tips for educators to make the most out of parent-teacher conferences

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With every new semester or quarter comes parent-teacher conferences. As both an educator and a parent, I believe these opportunities can be vital to a child’s success in the classroom. However, even teachers struggle with the preparation for these conversations.

Here are some tips for educators looking to leverage one-on-one time with parents:

Highlight students’ strengths
Parents want to know you see the assets their child brings to the classroom. This can also offer insight into what parents can be doing at home to encourage these strengths.

Do your best to frame negative feedback in a positive way
Criticism, even constructive, can sometimes be awkward. It’s important to remember that you are giving this feedback because you care about the child and his/her growth, and parents know that too. 

Keep your message on specific behaviors rather than making broad statements
Bringing specific examples into the conversation helps hone in on the child’s areas of improvement. All students are different, and it’s important to highlight what makes them unique.

Offer specific suggestions to help students overcome struggles they are having, and emphasize how they can apply their strengths to challenges
Even if parents are aware of their child’s struggles, it’s important to have them understand you are there to help.

Use positive notes and messages throughout the year
As a teacher, you play a very important role in every student and family’s life. In order to encourage positivity in the classroom, you should work to instill that positivity beyond the classroom, too. It’s easy to send quick, specific, and positive emails. Make an effort to send a few each week. Spread the messages among all your students, even the ones you find challenging.

I also wrote a piece for parents heading into these conferences for Baltimore’s Child.

Stacy Williams is the coordinator of clinical experiences at the Loyola University Maryland School of Education and a mother of two teenagers.

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