Planning for 2012-2013: Parent Teacher Conferences

We’ve started planning for next year and the debate about parent teacher conferences at the middle school  rears its ugly head again. I work in a Middle School with advisories and teams. Having said that, I work in a junior high where advisory is five minutes and kids are cross teamed. There are 176 students in each team and I have 16 students in my advisory with whom I schedule parent conferences. Of the students I conference with, over half I do not teach until March. There are foreign language teachers with advisory students not enrolled in a foreign language.

What is the best way to hold a parent teacher conference? For years we have held student led conferences. This is great from my perspective. The students collect work they want to show their parents and my advisory students write letters to their parent explaining their acdemic as well as social achievements. At conferences the student reports to his/her parent. I report MAP scores and answer questions. I am also there with a list of things students can do to improve their grades as well as a note messanger for mostly math and language arts teachers. We develop goals and in twenty minutes the conference is over. Is this bad?

The biggest complaint is from parents wanting to see only the math and language arts teachers. We tried that one year. The math teachers almost quit. As the rest of us peered around corners, hoping for an interested visitor, math teachers had lines down the hall. There were loud complaints about having to wait.

Technology offers us a new way to conference. I suggested, in jest, to cancel conferences and SKYPE in parents and kids from their couches as home. The Bulls Game would be on, Dad would have a beer, and looking at me on a sideward glance, they’d say, “Well, he’s a good kid.”

I’m joking of course.

Because it is so much easier to contact parents via e-mail, I’d say I conference with parents regularly. Yet, it is so important to bring families into the school. Getting parents into the school makes our jobs easier because they get a feel of our culture. As the years roll on, I see parents a couple of times and make great connections. We laugh and chat, it is social.

I’ve heard of schools doing conferencing “dates”. Everyone sits in the gym and parents play musical chairs, going from one teacher to the next. Doesn’t the kid need to be there??

What is the best way to get people into a building to discuss kids in a way so they feel their time is not wasted?

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