Preschool parent-teacher conferences can be nerve-wracking – instead of the typical interaction with your preschoolers, you’re face to face with adults. However, there’s no need to stress – accentuate the positives.
This is the perfect time to connect and cultivate a relationship with parents and work as a solidified team with common goals if there are any issues, or areas of improvement that should be addressed. Use this opportunity to your advantage for meaningful communication to help your student succeed in reaching his/her potential in all development areas.
Notify Parents in Advance
Notify parents well in advance of the meeting so they can coordinate a babysitter if necessary. Ideally, parents should come without their child, as children may find it intimidating to hear adults talking about them. However, if childcare cannot be arranged, plan to have activities set up in a corner of the classroom so the student can be engaged during the conversation.
Calling or sending friendly reminders to busy parents can help ensure conference appointments are kept.
When notifying parents of the meeting, be sure to outline expectations, so they know what to anticipate. Helpful information such as meeting duration, assigned start time and discussion topics will help make the conferences run more smoothly, as parents will be well-informed of the meeting structure.
Invite parents to share any concerns or interests they’d like to discuss during the conference beforehand as well. This proactive approach will set the stage for a more productive conversation and can help alleviate being caught off guard with difficult or unexpected questions.
Prepare Your Observations and Recommendations
As you are preparing for your meetings, be mindful of assessing children throughout the week leading up to the big day. Naturally, you observe your students on a daily basis; however, be more aware of specific positive behaviors or areas that require improvement, as parents will be interested in hearing examples of both!
If you do note an area of opportunity or behavioral issues that need to be addressed, be prepared with specific recommendations or solutions to redirect student behavior. If you have ideas for further support from home, be prepared to share those as well to reinforce the idea that you are partners in wanting the best for their child.
Collect and Organize Student Samples
Parents love seeing their children’s work, so they’ll be delighted to view any student samples you can provide. Be sure to organize all materials by the student, and have them easily accessible and on hand per your schedule.
Consider organizing the materials into folders ahead of time. With this approach, the folders can be a parting gift for parents, who will be more than happy to cover their fridge with masterpieces.
Set Up a Waiting Area
As there will likely be parents waiting outside while you are in another conference, why not set up a pleasant waiting area outside the classroom? By taking this extra step, parents will feel comfortable and at ease, helping set the tone for a trusting and caring relationship.
This area can be as simple as a couple of chairs, and a table; however, be sure to include materials for parents to entertain themselves while they wait. A classroom book or scrapbook highlighting your students’ artwork make for excellent browsing material.
For a sweet, simple extra touch, provide paper and pens and encourage parents to write their child a supportive note, while they wait for their turn. A simple sign with instructions should be sufficient. After their conference comes to an end, parents can leave the note in their student’s cubby. Parents will appreciate the extra attention to detail, and the students’ faces will light up when they walk into the classroom the following morning.
Prepare the Classroom
A nice and tidy classroom can give parents peace of mind when they see the actual space their children are spending their time in throughout the day.
As you likely don’t have a desk, be certain to set up a comfortable area to sit and talk with parents. Whether you borrow a small desk and chairs from another teacher or set up a makeshift seating area, the opportunity to physically sit down will allow parents to take notes if they would like to do so. When setting up this area, be sure to also include writing materials. You’d be surprised at how many parents will request this, so why not be prepared?
Have a copy of the meeting schedule to ensure you stay on track with your timing throughout the evening. Be cognizant of the start and end time as you meet with parents, as to not keep others waiting. If the meeting ends and either you or the parent feels there’s more to discuss, suggest a follow-up meeting to pick back up where you left off.
Have a specific flow in mind when conducting your parent-teacher conferences. An especially effective approach is the sandwich method. Begin with a warm greeting and a positive observation about their child. Then tackle any more difficult or challenging conversations (if applicable), and end on a positive note. Parents tend to view the harder to discuss items in a more positive manner when broached in a sandwich effect.
Address these key items when discussing students: their strengths, interests, needs, goals, and action plan (if necessary for improvement). Parents will appreciate a glimpse into the areas where their child excels, what play areas they tend to gravitate toward, and if there are any needs or issues that need to be addressed, and what the action plan is moving forward.
You Did It!
You survived the conferences – now what? If there were any unanswered questions, follow-ups, or items you would like to discuss further in a separate meeting, be sure to reach out to parents individually in a timely manner. They’ll appreciate the initiative to converse further, and you’ll continue to establish a trusting relationship.