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Chapter 19 – William Allan Kritsonis, PhD

Conference with Parents and Evaluate the Success of the


Meeting
The three primary agents for a child's physical, emotional, and spiritual
development are the family, school, and teacher. The relationship of these three
agents affects the child's individual behavior. The child develops a balance between
home and school when parents and teachers coordinate activities and learning
experiences that require cooperation between the two. The parent-teacher
conference is an effective way of accomplishing this.
The teacher's role in conferencing with parents requires a working knowledge
of adult psychology and child development. Read books on conferencing in order to
become familiar with how to plan and conduct a successful conference. Review
conferencing techniques by role-playing with a colleague. During these practice
sessions, be mindful of which techniques result in successful conferences and
remember to use them during parent conferences. Getting together with other
teachers to discuss successful conferencing procedures often helps. Include
parents in these gatherings and solicit their suggestions in order to eliminate as
many shortcomings as possible before conferencing time approaches.
Stress to parents the value of conferences. In a brief bulletin, explain its
purpose and highlight conference procedures. Send parents a personal invitation
and ask them to list particular items they would like to discuss during the conference.
Three days before the scheduled conference personally telephone parents to
confirm the day and time of the conference. Express pleasure and warm
expectations of seeing them. This promotes a healthy relationship between parent
and teacher. Write letters offering regrets to parents who could not be scheduled.
Often, these parents will take the initiative to arrange a conference within two or
three days.
If home conferences must be scheduled, always contact the parents to
arrange an appointment before making a home visit or invite the parents to the
school for an observation of the classroom. A personal invitation builds strong
communication with the parents and develops stronger human relations between
parents and teacher. Telephone conferences are not as effective as face-to face
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conferences and are generally used to contact parents for emergencies or situations
that require immediate attention.
Each child should have an individual work folder containing samples of his
school work. Include any additional information from other professionals (counselor,
psychologist, educational specialist, or principal) who might be working with the
child. Use this folder when preparing for the conference and refer to it during the
conference. Prior to the conference, organize a checklist of the areas to be
discussed. The following might be included in this checklist:
1. Work study habits,
2. Attitude concerning school,
3. Human relations with peers,
4. Academic performance and achievement,
5. Maturational growth,
6. Specific reasons for conducting the conference, and
7. Positive suggestions for future improvement.
A neatly computer generated list of scheduled conferences should be
displayed for parents. Provide chairs in a waiting area and furnish magazines,
books, and pamphlets for them to read while waiting. Many parents relax before the
conference if reading materials are available for them to browse.
Choose a conference room that is private and well-lit. A classroom is
acceptable, provided the conference will not be disrupted. Provide a small table
where teacher and parents can sit together, rather than the teacher sitting behind a
desk. Develop a comfortable relationship immediately by welcoming the parents in a
sincere, friendly, and courteous manner. If English is not the parents’ dominant
language, invite a member of the staff to translate the discussion, and thoroughly
explain who “this stranger” is, and what she or he will be doing. Start the conference
by pointing out the child's strengths rather than his or her weaknesses. Displaying
the child's school work for the parents' perusal can stimulate a conference. Include
artwork, reports, charts, and tapes the child has made. Parent’s want to see their
child’s progress and inspecting their child's work often impresses them favorably.
After discussing the child's better qualities, bring up his difficulties and always offer
suggestions for improvement. During the conference, allow parents to talk freely,

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encouraging them to point out what they perceive to be problem areas. Listen
carefully, and respect their opinions. Discuss these problems intelligently, and then
offer suggestions for solving them. The solution may require adjustments on the part
of the teacher as well as the parents. Focus discussion on the child rather than on
methods of teaching or parent's personal lives. Dwell on the positive comments
made by parents and remain unbiased, withholding personal judgment. The
conference will develop naturally as basic objectives are addressed.
Diplomacy is an art and must be used at all times during the conference.
Never dictate ideas or suggestions to parents. Parents have their own ideas,
opinions, and prejudices about their children and these are not easily changed.
Offer several possible solutions to problems and then allow parents to decide on a
course of action. Avoid being overly critical of the child. Parents are the last to see
their child's faults, and criticism can be detrimental to relationships.
Avoid arguing. Do not take offense if the parent, disillusioned with education
in general, makes a derogatory remark about the school or school system. Allow the
parent to talk against the system, respecting his or her right to feel as he or she
does. Use professional judgment in defending any issues.
When parents talk about affairs that should remain private, they are really
saying, “I trust you.” Never discuss or reveal these personal concerns with friends,
staff members, or spouses. This personal information must remain confidential.
Avoid being overly sentimental during a conference. Have a complete
understanding about the feeling of parents. Do not let their problems become
personal problems. Be concerned, but no not worry about their problem.
Encourage parents to talk during the conference, but do it honestly. Do not
use flattery. It is better to say nothing unless it can be said with honest appreciation.
Boost their egos by mentioning the thoughtful things that they have done with their
child. This honest recognition will result in a showing of parental pride.
During the conference, speak in common, everyday language that parents will
understand. When the teacher speaks in teacher terminology, parents resent it,
thinking the teacher is trying to show off or talk down to them. When a teacher is
guilty of this, he or she is insulting parents by underestimating their intelligence.

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Before closing the conference, summarize significant points that were
discussed. Never end on a negative note. Make every possible effort to conclude in
a positive, constructive, and pleasant manner. Offer encouragement to parents,
committing to cooperative action for the benefit and development of the child.
Parents lose track of time during a conference, so it becomes the teacher's
responsibility to end the conference on time. This is important since other parents
who have been scheduled will be waiting. End by standing and saying simply, “It
has been most enjoyable talking with you.” This signals to the parents that the
conference is near its end. If the parents continue to talk, begin walking to the door.
Do whatever is necessary to avoid inconveniencing the parents who are waiting for
their conference time.
The follow-up is important. If after-conference reports are to be written, they
should be brief, ethical, and highly objective. Make note of the attitudes and
contributions made by parents during the conference and mention any decisions that
were made. Evaluate whether the conferencing was successful or not and if it
resulted in positive benefits for the child. Decide what changes could be made in
order to ensure the conference will be a success.
Write a personal thank you letter expressing sincere and honest appreciation
to all parents who attended the conferences. Doing so will further better relations
between parent, child, teacher, school, and school system.
A Thought in Words
There is no royal road to learning. Euclid Toptolemy, King of Egypt

Copyright © 2018 by William Allan Kritsonis

William Allan Kritsonis, PhD


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