Reach Every Parent / Mar 17, 2021

The Ultimate Parent-Teacher Conference Guide

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So, you’re a teacher, and you may have held a parent-teacher conference or two…hundred before. Perhaps you’re fairly established as a teacher in tenure but are curious to learn a few new tricks. Or, maybe you’re established as “new” and need to know all the tricks! Either way, this comprehensive all-in-one parent-teacher conference guide will ensure you have the BEST conferences this year.  In it, we’ll break down the before, during, and after components of parent-teacher conferences.


SECTION 1: PARENT-TEACHER CONFERENCE GUIDE – A GENERAL OVERVIEW

the significance of effective parent-teacher conferences, when to hold them, and the different styles to consider


What Makes For an Effective Parent-Teacher Conference?

With parent-teacher conferences (PTCs), the adults involved generally welcome them, while in most cases, students may not. But, that doesn’t always have to be the landscape. When executed correctly, an effective PTC creates an opportunity for introspection, reflection, and success for the students and parents you serve as an educator. 

These meetings give you a chance to collaborate with families to celebrate their children’s achievements and, of course, explore their areas of improvement. Ultimately, one of the main goals of a PTC is for you, parents, and- as an added benefit- for students to work as a united team to develop a mutual plan of action to help learners flourish.

How Does Your School Conduct Parent-Teacher Conferences?

So how does your particular school site hold parent-teacher conferences? Generally speaking, school districts use different approaches in conducting conferences, which depends on several variables. A couple of considerations include the size of the student/parent population and the overall demographic served. 

Some sites reserve one designated day for PTC’s, while others conduct them over an entire week. Using the first of the two is perfectly fine when you have a smaller school population overall. Meanwhile, using the latter allows for more accommodation to suit a vast number of families and their varying schedules. 

Which of the two would work best for your school?

Traditional Parent-Teacher vs. Student-Led Conferences- What’s the Difference?

Most schools are accustomed to holding parent-teacher conferences a couple of times a year. However, what some sites may not be used to is that there is more than one approach that can be utilized. So, let’s review two options: traditional parent-teacher conferences and student-led conferences.

COMPARISON: Traditional Parent-Teacher Conferences vs. Student-Led Conferences 

For a quick consideration here’s a side-by-side comparison of both types:

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Traditional Parent-Teacher Conferences

In a traditional parent-teacher conference, teachers are the ones to typically guide the entire conference. They present information about a student’s grades, what’s being taught to them, and observations about their learning. During the meeting, both the teacher and parents have the opportunity to work as a team in coming up with the best action plan for their student’s education.

In a traditional PTC, the learner isn’t usually present. If they are, then they usually take on a passive role.

Student-Led Conferences

With a student-led conference (SLC), students are given “a seat at the conference table” to discuss their personal observations about their own learning. Here, there is a focus on student-centered learning where they experience more freedom to connect academic learning to their individual interests and future goals. An SLC serves as a powerful tool for improving students’ engagement with their individual learning processes.

Pro-tip: According to our super-star teacher Tara Tarok, “Students who can understand and interpret their data to create goals and become active participants improves their overall academic growth and confidence”. Click to learn how Tara used ClassTag to strengthen the bond between home and school!

In this type of conference, students take ownership of their learning and the focus becomes more about what they feel they’ve learned rather than what the teacher was teaching. In taking an active, rather than passive, leading role in conferences, students feel valued and listened to.

CHALLENGES: Parent-Teacher Conferences and Student-Led Conferences 

As with anything, there are a few challenges for both PTCs and SLCs. Let’s explore:

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SECTION 2: BEFORE THE CONFERENCE

setting up conferences and the necessary items to send to parents for a positive and effective meeting


Easy-Peasy, Set Up Conferences in a Breezy!

Are you tired of dealing with the hassle of back-and-forth paper communication with parents that often “gets lost” the moment it hits your students’ hands? Well, when you go to set up your conferences, skip the trouble by taking advantage of ClassTag’s simple scheduling tools.  

Invite parents, set the conferences, enable smart reminders, and do so much more! All of ClassTag’s automated coordination gives you one less thing to consume on your already full teacher plate.

Here’s how to quickly set up conferences using ClassTag in 3 steps:

  1. Follow along with ClassTag’s simple guide to set up and coordinate parent-teacher conferences.
  2. Copy, paste, and post the announcement below, along with any pre-conference forms and resources you need parents to fill out and return. 
  3. Review pre-conference forms and prepare for the conferences.

And…you’re done!

Pro-tip: Remember, all parent-teacher conferences will automatically add a Google Meet link and sync to both you and your parents’ Google Calendar. Learn more about remote conferences on our blog How to have a Sucessful Parent-Teacher Conference (even during remote learning).

Announcement Template

Before parent-teacher conferences occur, you’ll want to set the tone that invites a positive experience for all. So, you’ll need to announce the meeting to families and include some basic information. You can use ClassTag to quickly send the following pre-conference announcement to get them set up:

Pro-tip: Feel free to copy and paste anything below or download our Ultimate Parent-Teacher Guide for free printables! Don’t forget to swap out the text in [brackets]!

Greetings Families!

Parent-teacher conferences are fast approaching and will take place [DATE] to discuss your student’s progress, grades, and behavior to date. Please refer to the following three links/items to help us enjoy a positive and effective meeting time together. Thank you!

  1. Pre-Conference Form: Please answer these 6 quick questions so that I can better understand your child from your point-of-view!
  2. How to Pick a Conference Time Slot: Choose your preferred conference attendance time in 4 simple steps.
  3. Review the 5 R’s of Conference Norms: This is our set of meeting norms that serve as our collaborative conduct guideline for when we discuss your student.

Talk to you soon,

[NAME]

Pre-Conference Form

  1. As far as academics are concerned, what do you feel your child’s strengths are?
  2. Considering your child’s academics, what are your areas of concern?
  3. What hobbies, sports, or activities does your child engage in apart from school?
  4. What or who inspires your child? Why?
  5. What else would you like me to know about your child?
  6.  Do you have any questions or concerns for me that I can address at the conference?

How to Pick a Conference Time Slot Instructions for Parents

  1. From the ClassTag app, locate your child’s teacher. 
  2. Find and click the parent-teacher conference section.
  3. Click the purple calendar area found down in the signup section.
  4. Select from available conference time slots and assign who will attend.
  5. And… done! You’ll also receive reminders up until the day of your conference time.

The 5 R’s Conference Norms

This is our set of meeting norms that serve as our collaborative conduct guideline for when we discuss your student: 

  1. Recognize the Team Effort: Collaboratively recognize that every conference member is on the student’s team, partnering to achieve the best possible outcome for the child’s greater good.
  2. Remain Positive and Constructive: Collectively celebrate successes with positive praise, and no matter how direct the conversation may need to be for areas of improvement, maintain a constructive approach.
  3. Resolve to Be Solution-Oriented: Cooperatively seek solutions to help settle student issues.
  4. Remember the Goal: Keep in mind that the overarching goal is to help your student flourish both academically and personally. 
  5. Respect Time: Maintain respect for one another’s time as well as for other families waiting for their conferences.

SECTION 3: DURING THE CONFERENCE

best practices for traditional and student-led conferences


Best Practices for Both Traditional and Student-Led Conferences

Whether your school chooses to conduct conferences in the traditional manner or to have students lead them, there are always best practices to consider. Here are the Top 7 considerations for each type of conference.

What are the top 7 Traditional PTC Best Practices?

1. Communication is Paramount

During a parent-teacher conference, maintaining open, productive, and honest communication is essential to both the meeting’s success and that of your student. Before conference day even begins, take the opportunity to address some of those frequently asked questions parents tend to have.

You can do this through the announcements you send to them ahead of time. In them, be intentional, clear, and thorough as this will answer questions and reduce the chance of miscommunication occurring during the actual meeting.

2. Start Positively and Balance the Conversation

Always, always start with a positive about your student. This usually puts both parents and their child at ease, and they become more receptive to the remainder of the meeting content. If you need to address an area requiring students to make improvements, do so. Then, make sure you maintain balance and go back to a related positive.

Simply said, give the good with the bad.

3. Keep Data on Hand and Encourage Student Ownership

Having recent work, grades, and other student items on hand at the conference helps connect something tangible for parents related to their child’s progress. Parents and students benefit greatly from having this material accessible throughout your discussion.

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Your student is also more apt to take ownership of their work and progress if they are present and active in the conversation. Create a safe space for them to share in the discussion to understand better what is expected of them.

4. Be Specific and Confident

Generally speaking, preparing an entire document for every student and their progress is relatively daunting, so instead,  jot down the most important highlights for each. This method should guarantee a focused conversation around specifics, rather than an onslaught of information. Since you took the time to prepare with specifics, then this will lend to your confidence in what you have to share about a student with their parents.  

5. Cooperative Team

In concert with #5, some news that needs to be shared during the conference might not be easy for parents to hear. However, remind parents that you are a cooperative team concerning their child’s educational journey, and you are working together to ensure they fulfill their potential.

If bringing up difficult topics makes you slightly uneasy, then read this post about handling difficult conversations.

6. Honoring Families’ Time

Just as indicated in “The 5 R’s Conference Norms” you’ll send to parents, respecting families’ time is a significant part of every PTC. It’s also necessary that you stick to your conference schedule so that all families get their fair share. Allowing yourself a buffer in between helps you maintain the right timing, which can easily be set up in ClassTag.

7. Offer Alternative Meeting Options

Unfortunately, not all parents can attend conferences in person or during the timeframe that they are being held. Therefore, offer alternatives such as virtual or landline calls. These are time slots that you can add as an option to your ClassTag parent-teacher conference schedule set up.

Top 7 Student-Led PTC Best Practices

1. Create an Action Plan

Sometimes, when students lead their conference, this invites stress, even if the audience consists of just their parents and teacher. So, be sure that they have plenty of preparation time to plan everything to help promote more ease during their SLC.

Here are some helpful planning tools:

  1. Early in the school year, inform your students that they will be holding their student-led conferences. Explain that this is where they’ll be able to share with their families what they’ve learned and to talk about their interests, successes, and struggles.
  2. Let your students know they’ll compile a portfolio that might include a conference agenda, samples of their work, and goal sheets describing their own academic and behavioral standards.
  3. Give students self-evaluation checklists to identify their strengths and weaknesses and also to use to set learning goals.
  4. Model the student-led conference process and give them opportunities to practice while offering your guidance, feedback, and reassurance.
  5. Allow students to support themselves with notes, written reflections, and talking points to use during the meeting.

2. Educate Parents on the Process

As your students put in copious amounts of time preparing for their SLCs, it’s vital for you, as their advocate, to communicate the importance of meeting attendance to their parents. Creating a safe environment for your students to present is critical, and parents also have responsibility. Therefore, kindly offer suggestions about the best ways to encourage the student, give constructive feedback, and determine what responses are likely to motivate rather than discourage.

3. It’s Not All About the Accomplishments

A student’s automatic reaction is to fill it with their best work when it comes to their portfolios. Your job as their leader is to explain the benefits of self-reflection and how overcoming challenges is a valuable skill they should inherit. By selecting work that demonstrates areas they need to improve and sharing them may elicit help from their parents to get the support, they need away from school.

You can best help your students by telling them how creating an immediate improvement plan is more valuable than ignoring a problem that ends up costlier in the long-run.

4. Recognize Progress That Extends Beyond Academics

Not only do students discuss their academic achievements during SLCs, but there should be a focus on their social and emotional progress as well. Have your students outline short- and long-term goals in these areas, as this can also act as motivators to help set goals for the next conference. Looking introspectively at social and emotional growth helps children’s development relative to their future adult selves.

5. Connect to “Real World” Success

Student-led conferences are a fantastic opportunity to help children develop vital life skills that don’t always get exercised in their daily norm. Leading a discussion can help your students improve their confidence with public speaking, organization, self-reflection, and long-term planning. As your students prepare for their meetings, provide opportunities and encouragement to sharpen these tools that connect to “real world” success.

6. Learn About Their Family Life

During an SLC, observing the interactions between a child and their parents provides a valuable insight into the family’s life. It can help you better understand your student’s attitudes and classroom behavior. If you witness adverse parental reactions, you can use this as an opportunity to mediate on behalf of the greater good. Naturally, you want to elicit an action plan that ensures your student can pursue their goals and do so with parental support.

7. Make Room for Follow-Ups

During an SLC, many topics, skills, and even a few issues can arise during the conversation. Likely, it’s not until after the conference that parents will reflect fully, which might bring up questions or concerns for them. Therefore, be accessible and make sure that parents know you’re fully available to talk for any necessary follow-up.


SECTION 4: AFTER THE CONFERENCE

thank parents and gather their feedback


Part of a successful parent-teacher conference includes what happens afterward and how you handle it. So the day after conferences, use ClassTag to send the template below, thanking families for their attendance. Included in the template is a “Feedback Four” Parent Conference Survey where you’ll learn what worked well, and not so well, for families during your meeting time. This survey will also allow you to follow through with any further inquiries parents may have.

Post-Conference Announcement

Dear ( ),

Thank you so much for meeting with me during your child’s conference. Times like these are such valuable opportunities for us to come together to benefit your child’s education and family as a whole. But, it doesn’t stop at conferences! Feel free to reach out to me anytime as I  invite any further conversation and collaboration with you. In closing, please click on the “Feedback Four” Parent Conference Survey to answer four short questions about our conference.

Thank you!

[NAME]

“Feedback Four” Parent Conference Survey

  1. With regard to your student’s academics, what would you like to know more about? 
  2. What part of the conference was most helpful for your family?
  3. For the benefit of future conferences, what area(s) can I, or the school, improve upon?
  4. Is there anything else, whether a concern or congratulation, that you’d like me to follow up with you about?

In Summary 

So there you have it, your all-inclusive guide to help you, your students, and their families see success during parent-teacher conferences. Before, during, and after, you’re set with everything you need, whether you’re a veteran teacher or starting at year one.


Take advantage of all that  ClassTag offers with its simple scheduling tools. You’ll have your meetings all set up with quickness and be well on your way to having your best parent-teacher conferences ever!

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