Written by Holly (Teach Starter)
At least twice a year, teachers get organised for a few late nights back at school running parent teacher interviews. It’s a fantastic opportunity to sit down one-on-one with your students’ parents to discuss their child and how they are traveling socially, emotionally and academically.
We all know how crucial parent involvement and communication is in the classroom. Getting the most out of these short but crucial interviews is imperative to the smooth running of your classroom.
It’s important to note that some of these tips include actions that are taken during the year to ensure both the teacher and the parents get the most out of these interviews.
How to Prepare for Parent Teaching Interviews
Here are my top tips for the all-important parent teacher interviews.
1) Give Plenty of Notice
Send out the invites to your parents as far out from the scheduled dates as possible. Many parents have sibling interviews they need to work around and many are also full-time workers. Providing them with ample time to get organised will ensure you get more parents attending.
I sent a table home with the dates and times that were available and asked the parents to label three boxes with the numbers 1,2 and 3 with their preferences for dates and times.
Some schools have the ability to do this all online. Make sure you check your school’s policy with regards to booking in parent teacher interviews first.
I made sure at the parent teacher information nights at the beginning of the year that I informed the parents that parent teacher conferences would be held and let them know the dates if it was known. For more information, read our blog, Tips for Planning and Preparing for a Parent Information Night.
2) Get Organised
The more organised you are the better! I used manilla folders for each student, I made sure that in each folder I included the parent teacher proforma and any assessment or student work that I felt needed to be used during the interview.
I always made sure that I had the latest reading assessment, a writing sample and recent maths assessment. I found in the time I did parent teacher conferences the parents mainly wanted to know about progress in maths and English!
3) Be Welcoming and Plan the Environment
Put yourself in the parents’ shoes. They are often concerned and a little bit anxious about what might be discussed during the parent teacher interview. Create an environment that is inviting, comfortable and welcoming. I didn’t like to set up the interview with a desk/table in-between as I felt this created a divide between the parents and myself. I often set it up on the side of a table.
When they arrive, ask how they are doing, how’s the family. Offer them a glass of water. Most of all smile!
4) Use an Interview Proforma
Sometimes, it can get a little nerve wrecking for you as well! Having a parent teacher interview proforma template that you can work off means that you won’t forget to say all the things you want to say with each set of parents. Download our free parent teacher proforma template.
5) Remember the Sandwich Effect
Often, you may need to bring up tricky issues about a particular student’s beahviour, work ethic or level of skill. I have always tried to use the ‘sandwich feedback’ concept. Basically, you start with something positive and encouraging, then you talk about the issue you need to discuss, followed by something else encouraging or positive.
A simple strategy, that has always helped me bring up tricky issues with parents.
Be a good listener. Allow the parents to raise any concerns or questions they may have first. Sometimes they will raise issues or concerns that you were trying to work out the best way to bring up with them. A win-win for both parties.
7) Use Evidence
When providing feedback discuss both strengths and weaknesses. Use the student’s portfolio of work to explain what you are saying.
For example, if you are talking about writing, you may be discussing how the student enjoys writing and is improving all the time. If an area they may need to work on is ensuring they use adjectives to make their writing more interesting, show an example to help explain what you mean.
8) Anticipate Possible Questions
When planning for the parent teacher interviews, have a think about what each parent may want to talk about. Or possible questions they may ask.
For example, if you know that Thomas has been having issues with his friends in the playground and you have spoken to his parents before, it is likely they will want an update as to what you have noticed and ideas for some more possible strategies or solutions to help him. Make sure you are organised for these questions and have some ideas!
9) Avoid Using Teacher Terms
As teachers, we love a good acronym and different teacher terms that get thrown around can get really confusing for parents. Make sure that if you are going to speak in ‘teacher talk’ that you explain what the acronym or teacher term means. For example, you may be talking about STEM make sure you explain what STEM stands for.
10) Communicate All Year Round
Nothing that you discuss at parent teacher interviews should be surprising to the parents.
If you have communicated effectively with parents and raised concerns as they happen, the parent teacher conferences should be more of a follow-up to discuss how things are going. Being open and honest all year round will ensure that you have a good working relationship with the parents of your students.
I also found sending home weekly class newsletters, meant the parents felt involved and included the whole year around. This meant that the valuable parent teacher interviews were spent talking more about the student, rather than what the whole class has been learning about.
11) Discuss Strategies
Discuss strategies, actions or goals that you want to set for their child. If you are bringing up a social issue, discuss how are you going to help their child overcome this. If you are talking about an area academically that they are struggling, discuss what are you doing in the classroom to help.
What are some strategies of things the parents can do at home to help their child? It’s all well and good to talk about these issues, but you need to provide the parents with ways to overcome them.
12) Finish with a Positive
Make sure you finish with a positive about their child. Some parent teacher interviews may get a little difficult if there are a few issues to bring up. But, always leave the parents with a positive thought as they leave the classroom.