Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tips for Successful Conferences

From the Apple

When I think about conferences, I think of them as a teacher but I always try to put myself into my shoes as the parent and give to parents what I wanted from the teachers that my own children had. That helps me stay focused and patient and especially understanding.

Here are my down and dirty tips for a successful conference:

1. Remember that the parent has sent you their most precious gift. It's not like they are keeping all the good kids at home!

2. ALWAYS, open with a positive note. Be sincere. There really is something wonderful about every child!

3. If the parent asked for the conference let them talk. Let them get out whatever brought them to the conference. It won't matter what you say until they deal with whatever is bothering them.

4. Don't get defensive. Listen. Try to make sure you understand what they are saying by saying things like, "I think I hear you saying..."

5. Forget the education jargon. They don't need to be impressed with how smart you are. They need to understand what you are saying.

6. Develop a plan of action. Tell the parents specifically how you are going to address the problem.

7. Don't tell the parent what THEY need to do (unless they ask), but stress collaborating.

8. Let the parent know that you really care about their child. The child's progress is very important to you and you will leave no stone unturned to make sure that their child has the best education possible.

9. As the conference comes to an end, summarize what you and the parent have agreed to do.

10. End of a positive note.

I think you get better at conferences with experience. You begin to look forward to this dialog with parents so that together you can help the child move forward. That nervousness and feeling of dread leaves and is replaced by a very satisfying feeling. Good luck, Star. Your adventure has just begun!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Conference Night

From the Star

So... conference night, what a night! Who would have thought I could talk to 15 parents all in one night and not go crazy? Well I can tell you I can’t even believe it myself. The goal was to talk to each parent for 15 minutes and answer all the 1,ooo questions that they have in that allotted amount of time while giving them all the answers that they want to hear and having them leave happy! Can you feel my pain? I started my conferences at 4:15 and did not walk out of my classroom door until 8:45. And, did I mention that my last conference was supposed to end at 8?

I had all my conferences set up back to back from 4:15 till 8. This is how I thought it would go; The parents would come in and I would tell them, for the most part, that their child was on level and they would nod their heads and say, “Great thanks for letting me know.” And then they would be on their way. Let’s just say, that's not exactly how it worked. Every parent, including the ones that had students with straight A’s, needed to know every detail about what there child was doing and how well they were doing it. They also wanted to know everything that we had planned for the year, which would have been great to tell parents except for the fact that we have not even begun planning for what we are getting into after Christmas! Don’t these parents know that I have enough stress without thinking that far in advance? No offense to any of you lovely parents, of course.

All in all the conferences went well, except for the fact that they sent the ESE coach in to monitor all of my conferences - adding a little extra nerves and stress. I hated being able to see the faces of the parents waiting - looking at me while I was finishing one conference and knowing that I was running into their time. I could see them checking their watching and sighing in frustration. Parents don't wait well.

Overall, I guess I was impressed with how well the conferences went and all of the good things that the parents said their children had to say about me. It really did make me feel good and help me to remember why I took this job. I guess with all my whining about the conferences, the truth is that I am loving every minute of it, even the crazy moments.

Friday, October 16, 2009

"The conference"

From the Apple

I have told you all about my experience with my first conference and I really appreciate all of the advice that I received. It is a good thing that I read all of the advice before my last conference, because it was an experience that I never could have imagined. The conference was scheduled for 5:00 in the afternoon and, of course, the mom was late, 15 minutes. So, as I waited for her to show up I was in the other room talking to some of the other teachers and the principal when the dad walks in and says “Hello?” I ran over to the room and greeted the parents only to find that it was just the father. It just caught me off guard a little bit since the mom was the one that had called me three times to voice her concerns and made the appointment. Let me just mention that before this conference began I was informed that the dad had very strong opinions and was very out spoken. So, you can just imagine how nervous I was when he walked in instead of the mom.

I started the conference by telling the father all of his daughter's strengths (thanks for the advice!) and what a joy she is in the classroom, which is really true. The mom might not have been there herself but she was there in spirit. She had given the father a list of her concerns for him to bring up at the conference! As the conference continued his main concern seemed to be that the state's new “F.A.I.R.” test showed his daughter only at a 10% probability of success rate. The assessments showed her below where she needed to be in reading. The dad had gotten advice from someone in the family who is a teacher who said that they had heard his child read and that there was no way that she was struggling in reading.

About 10 minutes go by and I am finally getting him to understand that we are concerned and that putting her in an extra intervention program for reading comprehension does not mean that she is going to be labeled as ESE. Since that really seemed to be his main worry, he finally started to listen and work with me on the idea of the intervention. Just as I start to get comfortable, guess who walks in? If you guessed the principal, you are absolutely correct! WOWZERS! Now I am right back to the beginning of being nervous. When she came in, of course, the dad directed the same questions to her that we had just gone over, and, lucky for me, all the answers were exact. I think that gave the dad confidence in me that I was not yanking his chain and that I really did care about his daughter and was trying to do everything possible to help her. Once the conference was over (and boy was I glad it was over), the dad thanked me and the principal gave me a wink (which I took to mean she was pleased with my performance)! It made me feel phenomenal! So thanks to all of you who gave me advice about conferences!! I needed it all! I used it all!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

First Conference

From the Star

So the time has come for me to begin my teacher conferences and you can just imagined how nervous I am. What will the parents want to know? Will I be able to answer all of the questions that they have? Will I have enough information that they are satisfied with the decisions that I have made. Well today I found out and I do have to say that the conference went extremely well for my first conference.

It all started when the parents came in for their child’s PMP conference (PMP's are required by the state when a child is falling below the expectation). I already knew the mom was a little upset and confused about me wanting to put her son on a PMP in reading since he got satisfactory on his progress report in reading. Many of you may be thinking, "Why would you have given him successful on the progress report in reading if he was not working on level?" Well I do have an answer for this. When progress reports went out, we only had one grade for reading and we had not yet received the results for the FAIR and SRI training and this child did not have a PMP in reading last year. So, I thought that he would be on level. However, after seeing the results of his assessments and looking over some of his work I realized that he really needed a PMP.

The parents arrived with a million questions and I don’t blame them. I probably would have just as many questions if I were the parent. So I started off by telling them what a delight there child was to have in my class, which is the truth. He really is a good kid! Once I started talking to the parents and explaining why they were seeing the differences between the progress report and the results now, I could see them take a big breath of relief. Oh and yes, you guessed it, I breathed a sign of relief too. After the tough part of telling them that I was putting their child on a reading PMP, I began with the interventions and assistance that the school and I would be giving their son. Once the parents heard about all the help that he was going to be receiving, they were relieved. I can say that I was very surprised and excited to see how well the parents and I worked together. The parents that I met with today were great and they were all about giving their child the best education that is being offered.

So... I can say that my first conference went very well and I know that all my conferences aren’t going to be so easy. I do feel much more prepared. I want all of my parents to leave my room feeling comfortable and confident with the decisions that are made during our conference. I am going to do my best to make sure that each and every parent is informed and prepared.

Anyone have any suggestions for making sure that my conference go the best they can?