10 tips to Prepare for Parent-Teacher Interviews
As hard as it is to believe, it is that time of year again…Parent-Teacher interviews! It is a time which brings with it a fair amount of stress and anxiety for teachers, students and parents alike. It does not have to be this way however. In fact, I have always looked forward to Parent-Teacher interview time as I see it as one more opportunity to build solid educational partnerships with parents. It brings with it the opportunity to see students through the “lens” of their parents. This is extremely valuable and informative, and it is a win-win for everyone. That being said, there are many things a teacher can do proactively to make the Parent-Teacher interview a very positive and effective exercise. The following are some tips which will help teachers have the best possible Parent-Teacher interviews.
1. No surprises:
The worst thing which can happen is to have a parent show up for the interview who thinks everything is going great with their child…only to find out that it is not. If there are concerns or issues make sure you have communicated with the parents before the interview. This is a very productive, positive and proactive approach which will ensure and solidify the teamwork approach between teacher and parent.
2. Prepare, Prepare,Prepare:
Honestly, you can never be too prepared for Parent-Teacher interviews. Make sure you have your course outlines, long-range plans and expectations ready to share. This should include rubrics, exemplars and success criteria which has been utilized with your assessment and evaluation. Also, something I have always done is prepare mini-reports on each child before the interview which outlines strengths, needs and next steps. It is basically a synopsis of their report card which I keep close by during the interview for reference. I do not often need it, but there is comfort in knowing it is there in case I get stuck!
3. Create a Welcoming Environment:
Ensure the environment is as welcoming as can be. Have a table set out with a number of chairs (adult chairs…not the tiny student ones). Also, have the interview schedule prominently posted on the outside of your classroom door with the instructions to knock when it is their turn. This will not only allow parents to see their time…but also will help move along parents who have overstayed their time. We do not want to push parents out, but the reality is that there are an awful lot of interviews to get through, and only so much time to do them. Lastly, put out chairs in the hallway or waiting areas for parents to sit at while they await their turn.
4. Ensure you have Samples of Student Work:
There are many reasons to have student work or student portfolios available. First of all, the parents will want to see what their child has been doing in class. It is also a great time to recruit help from the parent in terms of how they can assist at home. Also, the work can be compared to exemplars which clearly show the levels where the child should be performing. This is often an eye-opener for some parents who may not know the expectations for their child’s grade and this ability to see a comparison between the expectations and what their child is doing is very helpful. Lastly, to have student work present for the interview is just one more strategy for you to have a complete body of evidence which supports your report findings.
5. Be Friendly and Dress Professionally:
Make no doubt about it, everyone is nervous at the Parent-Teacher interview. To greet everyone with a warm smile and possibly a handshake will take the edge off right from the start. It will be greatly appreciated and will contribute greatly to the positivity and productivity of the interview. Also, professional dress will ensure a good impression as the parent arrives. This will also start the interview on a great note.
6. Be Positive: Follow the Strengths/Needs/Next Steps Formula:
There can be nothing worse for a parent than arriving at an interview and immediately being bombarded by everything their child is doing wrong! Always start with the positive strengths. This will ease parental anxiety and make it much more likely that the parent will be on your side, rather than immediately going into defensive mode as they feel their child is being attacked. You will need to talk about the needs of the child too however. This can still be done in a very positive manner as you recruit the help of the parent to help you address the needs. Next Steps should be the final part of your interview and should be a plan that has been created by the parent-teacher (and possibly student) team to help the student improve and begin to address their needs.
7. Redirect When Needed:
Sometimes parents will begin talking about other children, parents or teachers. This is a big no-no. Gently redirect the parent back to the reason they are at the interview…their child. If they persist let them know that you are absolutely not allowed to discuss other individuals and will only talk about their child.
8. Hear the Parent:
While the parent has come to the interview to hear about what their child has been doing at school, they have also come to be heard. This is great because this is what you want! We want to get an overall picture of the child and we only get part of that picture from their time at school. Let them speak without interruption and make note of suggestions they have made. Parents will be a wealth of information and are the best allies we have as educators.
9. Seek Administrative Assistance if Needed:
As positive as you attempt to keep the interview, sometimes on rare occasions they just do not go well and can become very heated. The reason for this is pretty obvious. These are their children, and it can become a very emotionally charged situation when parents hear they are not performing as well as they had hoped. Anxiety and frustration may take over and you as the teacher may be directly in the “firing line.” If this is the direction the interview has taken and you realize there is no way of getting it back, call the administration for assistance. You are well within your right to instantly end an interview if it becomes personal or abusive in any way. Fortunately this is very rare and the vast majority of parents are there to find solutions to help their children the best they possibly can. *Note…because interviews can often be emotionally charged, teachers should never hold them without informing the administration. There needs to be a backup in case help is needed.
There is nothing worse than not following up all the great plans and ideas you and the parents came up with during the Parent-Teacher interviews. As with any initiative, the success is in the follow-up. To help yourself do this, ensure you have taken some notes about key points that you need to follow up with for each child. You will have talked to so many parents it would be only natural to forget many of the great ideas. Quick jot notes will help immensely.
These are what I would consider the top ten suggestions which I have found to be helpful. Of course there are many more (little things for instance such as bringing water with you as you will be talking a LOT), and if you have any suggestions I would love to hear them.
Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario Parent-Teacher Interviews: Before, During, and After. (Catholic District School Board)
Parent teacher interviews. Psych 4 Schools. http://www.psych4schools.com.au/announcements/enews-edition-9-parent-teacher-interviews
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