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Innovative Tips for Successful Parent-Teacher Conferences

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Education World is pleased to present these professional development tips shared by author and educator Jim Gomes.


Have a Student Secretary for Parent-Teacher Conferences*


Select a volunteer from one of your classes to act as your secretary during parent-teacher conferences. Thank the student for volunteering. Familiarize the student with both the benefits and the secretary’s role as outlined below.



  • The student secretary accumulates valuable volunteer hours.
  • The student also gains experience dealing with adults.
  • This illustrates to parents that teachers see their students as valuable by empowering them and by providing growth opportunities.
  • It sets a professional tone for the meeting.
  • It helps the parent-teacher conference process run much more smoothly.
  • It saves the teacher time.


The Secretary’s Role:

  • Greet parents in a friendly manner.
  • Set up appointment times if not prearranged.
  • Distribute a welcome sheet (see Tip 87).
  • Take down contact information of parents who arrived but were unable to stay.
  • Keep the teacher on schedule.


There may be no better time to make a good impression on parents than on this night. Having a student secretary can help you make the most of it.



Provide a Welcome Sheet for Parent-Teacher Conferences


After welcoming parents, the student secretary should supply them with a welcome sheet that may contain:


  • a warm, inviting title such as Welcome to Parent-Teacher Conferences;
  • your name, subject, meeting room number, and conference time;
  • an introductory paragraph that thanks parents for attending and lets them know you are looking forward to the opportunity of discussing their child’s progress with them;
  • contact information such as phone number and extension (and/or professional e-mail address at your discretion), and times when you can be reached;
  • times when extra help is available for any student who seeks to improve;
  • information regarding tutoring programs that are available at your school—high achievers may wish to become peer tutors (see Tip 64);
  • a MEMO section that provides information about policies or procedures you wish to highlight (e.g., frequency of major tests, the need for parental signatures and the meaning of the year-to-date mark), upcoming tests and assignments, and what students are currently studying; and
  • a NOTES section where parents can write important information discussed during the conference.


A well-designed and informative welcome sheet demonstrates that you are organized, well prepared, and thoughtful. It also helps to set the tone for a professional encounter. As an added benefit, the welcome sheet is a huge time saver, cutting the length of many conferences in half.



What Parents Really Want to Know


This list is based on my personal experience of teaching full time for 35 years and conducting in excess of 1,000 parent-teacher conferences. Parents want to know:


  • current grade and most recent results;
  • behavior—positive or negative;
  • homework completion;
  • participation, including how students relate to their peers;
  • areas for improvement, both academic and behavioral;
  • upcoming evaluations; and
  • action plan to improve student grades and resolve other issues.


Being able to address each of the above items accurately will require some record keeping in the form of checklists and anecdotal comments.


Hint: Don’t be surprised that the majority of parents who show up for conferences are the parents of high achievers. Therefore, it is a good idea to either send a note home or call the parents you need to see the most to set up a conference..




How to Shine When Conducting the Parent-Teacher Conference


Smile and thank parents for coming in. Begin by accentuating the positive, touching on any of the items from What Parents Really Want to Know (above). Next, bring to light any areas for improvement of the student in question, e.g., incomplete homework, lack of participation, and behavior issues. This provides a framework for developing an action plan. Then, ask parents for their concerns and keep an open mind, even if they are critical. Once again, accentuate the positive then formulate an action plan along with the parents; their involvement in the process is often fundamental to your success.


Having made at least one previous phone contact with parents is extremely helpful when conducting a formal parent-teacher conference. You can still follow the outline above if an action plan already exists. You will need to provide updates and modify the action plan if necessary. It is paramount that parents realize that your primary goal is student success.


During the conference, listen carefully, and make pertinent notes. Obtain any contact information you may require. Let parents know how and when you will be in touch with them. For example, tell them when the next important evaluation will be sent home for signing and when they can expect either a note or a phone call to update them on their child’s progress. Follow through on your part of the plan and if the student fails to cooperate fully, contact the parents immediately. If the time allotted for the conference turns out to be insufficient, make arrangements to contact the parents the next day to complete your discussion.


*Note: This book was written for Canadian readers who are familiar with the term "parent-teacher interview." Where applicable, Education World editors changed the reference to "parent-teacher conference," more commonly used in the United States. British spellings may also have been altered.



This text was excerpted from "Communicating With Parents Is Essential," a chapter in Jim Gomes's recently released book Ready, Set, Teach! 101 Tips for Classroom Success. Gomes taught for more than three decades in Ontario, Canada. He has coached youth sports teams and has mentored new teachers on a personal basis and through his educational resource company: J-Go LEARN Inc. Gomes is part of the Professional Learning Series at the Faculty of Education, University of Windsor. To learn more about Gomes and "Ready, Set, Teach!" visit




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