Parent/Teacher Conferences occur once per school year to increase parent involvement within the school and classroom. While they serve some families well, there are a number of aspects that need to be revised.
The sign-up process as well as the conference itself needs to be restructured to help the students in the most efficient manner. As the sign-up process is predominantly online, many of the time slots fill up before parents without daily internet access can schedule their meetings.
“I serve students whose families can’t afford a computer or monthly internet service,” social studies teacher Stephanie Davey said. “We sort of disenfranchised that group of families when we switched to the online sign-ups a few years ago from the call-in method.”
While teachers are already given the opportunity to contact the parents of struggling students ahead of time, more teachers need to ensure that students who need the most help get first priority.
“What I do for my Parent/Teacher Conferences is have the students who are struggling and need more teacher-parent contact call home during class and schedule an appointment with their parent,” Opportunity teacher Christa Wemmer said.
Parents also need to view these conferences not as time to punish the student for previous unsatisfactory performance, but as an opportunity to develop a path towards future success in the classroom. Perhaps the most effective way to accomplish this is to involve the student in the meeting as much as possible.
“I like it when the students come with their parents,” Wemmer said. “Because then it is more of a conversation about what’s working, what’s not working and how you can help students improve.”
Parents may not fully understand what is limiting a student’s performance and therefore cannot work effectively with the teacher to come up with a solution for improvement. To maximize their usefulness, the conferences need to be restructured, giving priority to the families of students who are struggling and making sure they receive the help they need.