Mastering the Art of Parent-Teacher Conferences

Tips from DreamBox Nation on how to keep your cool and provide constructive feedback

Talking to parents can be stressful, whether you’re meeting your friend’s parents as a child, your partner’s parents as an adult, or even just introducing someone new to your own parents.  Of course, meeting parents as an educator is especially nerve-racking—and unavoidable. How do you kindly provide feedback while also making the experience positive for everyone? Fortunately, we posed that very question to our educators on DreamBox Nation and they rose to the occasion with lots of helpful tips for mastering parent-teacher conferences.

Talking Points: Accentuate the Positive

The key to a smooth and productive conference is balancing positive feedback with helpful suggestions. That said, it’s easy to overwhelm parents with too much information. Here are three ways DreamBox Nation members frame their conversations with learning guardians:

  • Serve up a growth sandwich: Start with a compliment, layer on some feedback, and finish with another compliment. In other words, sandwich your suggestions for growth between two healthy slices of positivity. This approach not only takes the edge off of any negative feedback, but it makes it easier for parents to process your suggestions as well.
  • Create quick snapshots: Offer a brief synopsis of the student’s performance in each subject accompanied by a compliment and a growth point. Quick snapshots like these can be less overwhelming and still manage to provide parents with the feedback they need in a positive manner.
  • Go with the flow: Begin by highlighting the student’s progress in various areas, move on to where they may need growth, and conclude with positive attributes of the student. With this method, learning guardians not only get insight into where their child is doing well, but also receive positive attributional feedback, making the areas of need a little easier to absorb.

Stay Organized: Back Up Your Claims with Evidence

When it’s time to talk about a student’s performance, don’t just tell parents—show them. Be sure to have examples of their child’s work in front of you any time you confer with a parent or learning guardian. DreamBox Nation advocates also advise to:

  • Anticipate parent questions: Gather student work and assessment scores so when a question arises you’re prepared with the data. Being able to cite specific examples not only helps parents understand, but it also reassures them that their student is getting the support that they need.
  • Use DreamBox: You can easily show parents exactly what their child is working on in DreamBox and how they’re progressing by simply sharing your Insight Dashboard screen during your parent-teacher conference.

Get Creative: Make Students and Self Evaluation Part of the Equation

Don’t be afraid to try new things with families! Traditionally, the parent-teacher conference excludes students, but nothing says you can’t ask parents to bring their child along. Here are three tactics DreamBox Nation members recommend for teachers who want to try a new, more inclusive approach:

  • Ask them to share: Start by asking the student to share something they feel good about, or something they are struggling with—it’s a great way to foster an open discussion with no surprises.
  • Ask them to come prepared: Have students bring examples of their work and be prepared to discuss them with both their family and their teacher. This is an opportunity for students to take a more active role in setting goals, tracking progress, and identifying areas where they may need additional support.
  • Ask them to evaluate their own performance: Have your students complete a self-evaluation prior to their conference. It’s a great way to get kids to take ownership of their learning by reflecting on their goals and progress. Plus, parents are less likely to debate an evaluation if it comes from their own child.

Stay Calm and Carry On

These conferences can be nerve-racking for everyone—you, the parents, and the student. But, they don’t have to be. Just remember that it’s all for the benefit of the student and you all have their best interests at heart.  So, come prepared, take a few deep breaths in between, and get your students involved so everyone stays connected and in the loop!

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