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Editor’s note: Principal Joe Mazza runs a weekly Twitter gathering each Wednesday evening called Parent-Teacher Chat (#PTchat). For more information on the chats, see information at end of this guest blog post.
The #PTchats I run allow parents, teachers, and school administrators from around the world to come together on Twitter for one hour to discuss family engagement topics. It’s very exciting that social media has allowed for this exercise in transparent perspective sharing where we can discuss how to best support kids!
During a recent #PTchat, the topic was parent-teacher conferences. Below, you will find actual “tweets” sent during the session; first, some from parents; next, those sent by teachers. The tweets reflect multiple perspectives, and cover the goals, latest research, and innovative tools used by teachers and parents to maximize parent-teacher conferences. These conferences, after all, are usually very short, so for the best interests of the student, parents and teachers must partner to make the most of these face-to-face opportunities.
Following are parent responses to the following scenario: Once you have secured your child’s meeting parent-teacher meeting, it’s important to enter the meeting with the correct shared-purpose in mind. What is your perspective about a parent-teacher conference? Why do you have that perspective? And what perspective do you think is best for your child? (Note: The responses use shortened language and symbols since tweets are limited to 140 characters each):
Tweets from the Parents’ Perspectives
“As a parent, I think it is critical to have opportunities to engage in a F2F (face to face) dialogue about my child's progress.”
“As a parent, I see how my kids can improve on what they're already doing.”
“Luv when kids are w/me @ meetings”
“ [When planning conferences] ask the parents what would work best for them?”
“Both sides go in w/open minds”
“Schools should set a goal for teachers to make at least 5 positive contacts a week with the parents of struggling students”
“For me, I want to know what the challenges are and [I want to] have specific ideas/tools on how I can support the learning at home”
Now it’s the teachers’ turn. Before, during, and after a parent-teacher conference, conscientious teachers have your child’s best interests in mind. At the same time, parents must remember that there are many things a teacher is trying to squeeze in during the short meeting. The goal is to maximize the time and have as much two-way dialogue occur as possible. If both parties are comfortable having the student present at the conference, it can be beneficial for the child to see the parent-teacher team working hard to help her be successful in school!
Wondering what’s going on inside the head of the teacher preparing for your conference? Go ahead: Ask your teacher what his purpose is in hosting the meeting. The answer (and the walk that should back up his talk), will help you develop the important parent-teacher relationship that is necessary for the best teaching and learning to occur.
Tweets from the Teachers’ Perspectives
“No one knows our students better than parents. They are our best resource!”
“Build relations and open lines of communication.”
“My best PT [parent-teacher] meetings were held at racetracks and pubs”
“Remember, it's about trust and perception of value. U will have to rebuild that which has been torn down b4 u”
“It also is a time for the first f2f [face-to-face] meeting and sets the stage for follow up conversations”
“Social media is a game-changer and something that should allow us to change when/how these types of meetings occur”
“PT [parent-teacher] conference went well when [the parent] looks @ u & genuinely says, ‘You truly know my child.’ Trust/respect gained 4 both P [parent] & T [teacher]”
“For some parents it is the only contact they have with schools”
“They [conferences] are not long enough for the students that need the most help”
“Beauty of student-led [conferences] is the level of accountability on the students. Makes them take some more responsibility for their learning”
“Build conferences to include information that parents desire”
“For some of your parents, conference day might be the only day you see them all year. Make it count”
“I love to make a call [to parents] on the first day of school...blows them away!!!”
“[Be] careful not to have too many teachers in room so parent feels overmatched—[should] only [be the] necessary teammates to help provide resources/support”
“I believe Ps [parents] want to know u r helping their ‘gifts’ become lifelong learners & citizens while they are away all day. And [that they’re] having fun!”
During the #PTchat, participants shared exchanges about ways to help schools use technology to schedule conferences and provide structure for student-led conferences. Information and links about the research that fuels these efforts was also shared!
Resources, Research, and Tools To Use/Pass Along
“Jerry Blumengarten’s ‘Parent-Teacher Conference Pages’ tinyurl.com/4rvh22y”
“Larry Ferlazzo’s ‘The Best Resources On Parent/Teacher Conferences’ bit.ly/rWL11T”
“I use a student-completed form that shows me, and parents, where [the student] believes he is performing at, and [what he thinks are his] strengths/weaknesses. Great tool!”
“My student-led conferences have a set script to assure all topics covered. [Each conference] includes samples of [the student’s] work”
“Research suggests that parent engagement in conferences diminishes over time due to lack of meaningful and relevant info”
“’Initial Research on Student Led Conferencing’ tinyurl.com/7pzp6b6”
“[Here is my] student-led [conference] form bit.ly/AcBUbx”
“’Sign Up Genius’ works well for events; [it’s] easy to use! bit.ly/5XGYZ9”
“’@Volunteerspot’ has a tool for PT [parent-teacher] conference signup http://www.volunteerspot.com”
“Building relationships improves attendance and content of conference”
“‘Google [Calendar has] Appointment Slots’ for your parent-teacher conferences bit.ly/zQZIVh”
“Another example of a Google Doc used for parent-teacher conferences here: bit.ly/z8UcGT”
“Wondering if we could tap into parents’ strength(s) and invite them back as guest(s), volunteer(s), etc.”?
“Parents want to know that you care about their child and that [she is] going to be happy learning in your class!”
“Leave the conference with a ‘next step plan’ that will provide opportunity for further contact between parents and teacher”
“[Use] the entire #PTchat [archive] on Maximizing Parent-Teacher Conferences at http://sfy.co/dk6”
“Interested in further PT [parent-teacher] perspectives? All #PTchats have been chronologically archived at: http://efacetoday.blogspot.com/p/eface-chats.html”
Joe Mazza is the principal of Knapp Elementary School in suburban Philadelphia, PA. He is a doctoral learner at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is studying technology’s impact on home-school partnerships. Follow Mazza on Twitter @Joe_Mazza and participate in the weekly, hour-long Twitter gatherings he holds via #PTchat (Parent-Teacher Chat) on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. EST/6 p.m. PST. Mazza also blogs at eFACE Today, where he posts innovative family engagement ideas for schools.