Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Parent/Teacher Conferences

At my high school we hold parent/teacher conferences in the fall and spring. In the fall it's two consecutive nights from 4:00 - 7:30 pm and in the spring it's just one night. All the teachers are in our two gyms and we have "five to seven minute conferences" with parents.

You probably won't be surprised to find out that I don't particularly like this format. While I think it's great we dedicate time for conferences, the one-size-fits-all conference format isn't ideal, and I would much prefer that the students be present for the conference as well. (In fact, I would prefer student-led conferences, but I could live with students-at-least-being-present conferences).

Having said that, this is the format and structure I have, so I'm trying to make it be as meaningful as I can. I had intended to write this post about two weeks ago, so that I could get feedback before conferences were upon us, but that didn't happen. So, instead, I'm going to share what I just gave to my students and ask for feedback so that if I'm still in the classroom a year from now I can do this better next time.

Below is what I shared with my students (inside Google Apps - they write to the prompt and put it in a folder shared with me). I'm going to ask them to share it with their parents before conferences (I may even email it to their parents before conferences, still deciding), but I will also have it available at conferences in case they did not. I'm also going to email the parents to encourage them to come and to tell them that I think it's very important for the student to be present if at all possible.

I would love your thoughts/suggestions for ways to make it better (although please keep in mind the restrictions I'm working under - I don't have the ability to change the basic format of the nights).

Parent/Teacher Conferences are coming up next week. Since these conferences are about you, I think you should be there. It makes very little sense to me that we should have a conference about you and you’re not there, so I’m encouraging your parents to come and to bring you with them. Please bring your Algebra notebook as well, so that we can look at your work if we need to.

Whether you end up attending or not, I want you to spend some time thinking about what you want your parents to know about this class and how you are doing. Here are some questions for you to respond to.
  • Has class met your expectations? Why or why not?

  • What’s going well for you?

  • What’s challenging for you?

  • What could I do as your teacher that would help you be more successful?

  • What could you do as a student that would help you be more successful?

  • Is there anything your parents can do to help you be more successful?

  • Is there anything else you think your parents should know about this class or about how you are doing in this class?
Please be thoughtful and specific in your responses, and please don't wait until the last minute, as I want you to put some real thought into this. The more you put into it, the more valuable it will be for you, me and your parents.



  1. It is great that we have conferences and that they're so well attended, but I wish we could have more time with the families of our students. I also think it's great when students attend with their parents, and what a great idea to have the students give you some feedback before hand. That will be really powerful stuff to share with their families.

  2. Excellent idea, I plan to borrow your form for use in my classroom this year.

  3. I think this is a great process! I think having the students reflect is very powerful and will be rich information for the parents. We have options at our school how we conduct the conferences but we are to strive to make 100% contact with all the parents (some years it is extremely challenging). One component I have added is before the conference I make some notes on each student’s strengths and areas to work on. I have found by presenting some positive aspects to both the parents and the student it makes for a very comfortable positive communication process. The areas to work on are really transformed into goals for the next term.b

  4. My name is Heather Bright and I am a student of Dr. Strange's EDM 310 class at the University of South Alabama. I really like that you still have an open house form of parent/teacher conference in high school. I know once I went to high school, I became semi-independent. The teachers didn't really care about involving the parents unless it was first initiated by the parents. I think that this is a great way to keep your students successful. I like how you involved the students too; it's good to teach them responsibility. I may have to steal this for my future classroom. Thank you for sharing!!

  5. My name is Lawanna and I'm a student in Dr. Strange edm310 class. I think it is great that your school has conferences with the parents, but I would have to agree with you. The students should be involved and having them reflect on what they have done in the class is an excellent idea that I will use with my students in the future.

  6. Here's an example of another way to do parent-teacher interviews. I liked it a lot, mixed reviews from the parents.


  7. I think that is a great idea. That sounds way better than the other format. Students should be present in a conference about them, that has never made since to me, that the parents do not bring the student to a meeting about them. The questions you asked them to think about were also good. I am a student in Dr. Strange's EDM 310 class at the University of South Alabama.

  8. Hi, My name is Toni Parrish and I am in Dr. Strange's EDM310 class, and I want to first say that your post has many great points and your idea of a student-led conference may be just what they need to become more involved. I personally think that it's useless for a student's parent and teacher to be meeting about them if they are not present. Whether they are doing exceptionally well or need improvement it should be mandatory for the three; teacher, student, and parent to be present when discussing the pro and cons of the classroom.