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10/8/17blog post

6 things teachers should share in a parent teacher conference

Teachers have been some of the most influential people in my life, and I admire them tremendously. They have tough jobs, particularly as they prepare to meet in the next several weeks in conferences with their kids’ parents.

Here’s what parents need to hear from you.

  1. Be honest. Your administrators have cautioned you to be positive, and that’s good advice. However, not every child is gifted, amazing, and talented. The grade inflation that has occurred in our high schools and colleges causes terrible psychological harm to our kids.Please be honest with your parents. Your job isn’t to make parents feel good, but rather to give them balanced feedback about their child. Uneasiness caused by honesty is better than comfort resulting from deceit.
  2. Don’t judge.  Be mindful of your attitude and tone of voice. Some parents live in a cauldron of emotional, financial and psychological turmoil. Kids pay the cost for their parents’ problems, and that’s irritating to you. Even so, you know little about the background of your parents. Your condescending attitude isn’t helpful, and only decreases the likelihood of a parent becoming your ally.
  3. Don’t just talk about academics.  You’re comfortable talking about grades and test scores. They matter, but so do lots of other skills. Our success as adults depends as much on our interpersonal and problem-solving skills as it does on our technical competence. Discuss your students’ relationships with others, sense of gratitude, resiliency and communication style.
  4. Be realistic. You try to make your classroom interesting, but you are not being paid to be an entertainer. Kids have YouTube for entertainment. They need you to be a teacher. Sometimes learning is tedious and boring. On other occasions, it’s thrilling and life-altering.  Please be sure your parents (and students) have a realistic view of what learning is all about.
  5. Suggest non-academic ways to achieve success. Your student’s worth as a person is not measured solely by her grades. Some of your kids are not academically inclined, and will seek a path other than college.  These are the kids that need your attention and support. Advise parents on other ways to engage these children in activities where they can experience success.
  6. Connect with special help. About one in six of your students has a mental health problem, and other kids have significant learning issues.  This is an uncomfortable conversation to have with parents. You don’t want to get them upset or have them complain to your administrator. You are a teacher because you love working with kids. Do what’s right, not what’s popular. Help connect your student with mental health resources.