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Parent-Teacher Conference Tips for Early Educators

Parent Teacher Conference Tips for Early Educators

If you are feeling nervous about parent teacher conferences – this one’s for you! While conferences are a great time to connect with parents, celebrate student achievements and also provide a space to express concerns – it’s not easy. Most of us are extremely comfortable talking to young children, but talking to parents can feel like a totally different experience!

Whether you’re a seasoned teacher or just starting out, I’ve got some tips and guidelines to share that can help ease some of those anxious thoughts!

Tip 1: Always start with the positive

Think about it… if you were to go to a meeting about someone you love and adore and that person was focusing on all their flaws… you’d probably get defensive, angry or stop listening all together.

Beginning by highlighting a child’s strengths and accomplishments not only helps parents feel at ease, it also let’s parents know that you see their child’s strengths.

The best way to gain a parents trust is to show them how well you know and care about their child. So, instead of telling them all about the skills they’ve mastered, try starting with positives about the child socially and emotionally. Then, move to sharing about academic achievements.

Here are some examples to get your brain going…

  • “[Child’s name] is a wonderful friend in the classroom. They’re always willing to share and help others.”
  • “[Child’s name] is very persistent. I enjoy watching him/her solve problems and not give up!”
  • “”[Child’s name] shows great creativity during art projects. It’s amazing to watch his/her creativity shine!”

Tip 2: Be Specific

Don’t just tell parents the child is ‘good’ at something, try backing it up with some examples. This not only lets parents know that you have really been paying attention, but it will pay off to prove to parents that you’ve gotten to know their child when the time comes to bring up any concerns.

Here are some examples:

  • Instead of “They are good at rhyming”, try “[Child’s name] is developing their rhyming skills. They can identify rhyming pairs like ‘cat’ and ‘hat’ and are starting to create their own simple rhymes.”
  • Instead of “They enjoy science”, try “[Child’s name] is a careful observer. They noticed that the leaves on the trees are changing color and were able to explain the concept of seasons.”
  • Instead of “They are good at sharing” try “[Child’s name] demonstrates strong social skills. They can take turns during playtime and share toys with their classmates.”
  • Instead of “They have a good pencil grasp” try “[Child’s name] is making progress with their fine motor skills. They can now hold a crayon with a proper tripod grip and are working on drawing more detailed shapes.”

**Remember, we want to be seen and respected as the professionals that we are. Parent Teacher Conferences is a BIG time to show our expertise!

Tip 3: When addressing concerns, focus on skills – not the child

When we focus on the skill that needs developed, rather than the child that is falling short, we help parents see that there is nothing “wrong” with their child. Because simply put – they need more exposure or practice with certain skills to gain mastery – it means nothing about the child!

  • Instead of “[Child’s name] is struggling to listen during circle time. TRY: “We’re working on listening skills in circle time. This would be things like making eye contact, raising a hand to speak and following through with instructions. [Child’s name] is making progress and I will help guide and encourage as we continue practicing these skills.
  • Instead of “[Child’s name] isn’t very interested in writing activities.” TRY: “We’re currently introducing letter formation skills. Many children find this stage a bit challenging, but we’re using fun activities like play dough and sensory bins to make practicing writing enjoyable. [Child’s name] is starting to grasp the concept of holding the writing tool correctly, and we’re confident they’ll continue to progress with continued practice.”
  • Instead of “{Child’s name} gets frustrated very easily when they don’t get what they want.” TRY: “We’re focusing on developing coping mechanisms for dealing with frustration. This includes things like taking deep breaths, using calming strategies, and expressing their feelings verbally. [Child’s name] is starting to recognize their emotions and is working on using these tools to manage their frustration in a healthy way.”

**REMEMBER: parents want to hear a plan for moving forward, not just a description of challenges. Using words like “progressing”, “building on” and “developing” convey a message that a concern has been observed, you have a plan and you are acting on that plan to help the child move forward.

Tip 4: Provide support, not just information

Again, to be seen as the professionals we are, we have to been mindful of not just alerting parents to concerns, but also providing them with support to help their child. If we are the experts, we need to share our expert advice.

To do this, share ways that they can do some of the same learning activities that you do in class, at home. For example:

>The child is struggling with letter recognition.

>Suggest some fun activities for parents to try: singing the alphabet song together, pointing out letters in everyday objects like signs or cereal boxes, and playing simple matching games with uppercase and lowercase letters.”

Parents are more likely to partner with you to help their child if they first know it’s an area for improvement and second know how to help.

Let’s Review!

  • ALWAYS start with the positive and use positive language – we want parents to hear us!
  • Go beyond explaining that a child is ‘good’ at something. Explain what you see that helps support those ideas.
  • Focus on the skills that need addressing, not the short comings of the child.
  • Give support, not just information. Tell how parents can help!

Follow these tips for Parent Teacher Conferences and you’ll be surprised at smoothly they go!

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