How to Conduct a Good Parent-Teacher Interview

Parent Teacher InterviewsI’ve sat on both sides of the desk when it comes to parent-teacher interviews.  I’ve been that anxious parent who must meet with a teacher to discuss my child’s academic progress and behaviour in the classroom.  I admit to being overly sensitive when it comes to my child…after all in MY eyes they are PERFECT, right?  Wrong.

I’ve also been that anxious teacher who must meet with a parent to discuss their child’s academic progress and behaviour in the classroom.  I admit to being overly sensitive when it comes to defending my evaluations when it comes to their child…after all in THEIR eyes their child is PERFECT, right?  Wrong.

It’s not easy for a parent to hear anything negative about their child.  Believe me, nothing puts me more on the defensive if someone is criticizing my child.  It’s even more offensive if MY parenting is questioned.  I am doing my best and I pray for God’s wisdom every single day on how to raise up my child.

It’s not easy for a teacher to hear anything negative about their teaching methods.  Believe me, nothing puts me more on the defensive if someone is criticizing me personally.  I am trying to do my very best in the classroom and I pray for God’s wisdom every single day on how to teach my students effectively.

So, I will give you some tried and true advice, from both sides of the desk, on how to conduct a good Parent-Teacher Interview.  (If you have some other good hints, please leave a comment!)

Teachers:

  1. Prior to the meeting, PRAY.  I cannot emphasize that enough.  It is vital to have the meeting undergirded with prayer prior to the appointment, during and after the meeting.
  2. Ensure that you have samples of children’s work to show to parents if needed.  Have one sample be a child’s best effort piece, and then have one that shows some struggles in understanding or lack of effort.
  3. Make sure your classroom and your desk is neat and tidy and dress professionally.  Make sure their first impression of you is a good one.  (I make sure I have some mints handy too for myself and for my parents if they would like one.)
  4. Do not sit behind your desk.  (Sitting behind your desk causes a perceived authoritative boundary or barrier between you and your parents.)  Instead, set up a couple of chairs, or sit in student desks so you and the parent are on “even” terms.   If you believe you will have an adversarial parent visit, ensure that an administrator is present at the meeting.  A school administrator will act as a “buffer” and should be on hand to mediate and listen objectively to both the parent and the teacher.
  5. Put your parents at ease the moment they come to the interview.  Meet your parent(s) at the door to your classroom.  Smile and extend your hand in greeting.
  6. First comments about the child should ALWAYS be positive.  Talk about the ways their student contributes in a positive manner to the class.
  7. I tend to start my interviews with: “Do you have any particular concerns about your child here at school?”  It allows the parent to voice specifics and allows you to get a better perspective what they focus on and value as important to their child’s success at school.  (Some parents are all about academics, some are all about their child’s social interactions, some are all about behaviour issues, and, this is important, some parents just want to talk and be validated that they are doing the best they can at home under trying circumstances.)
  8. When you speak about your concerns about the child’s behaviour or academics, remember that the parent and you are partners in helping the child achieve maximum success in school.  Treat them accordingly.  Using phrases like:
    1. I appreciate how you have helped (name of child) at home….
    2. I want to partner with you to help (name of child) become successful at… here are some ways you can work with your child on at home…
  9. Have some specific websites or resources available to share with your parents that will assist them understanding curriculum or assist with homework.  (Here in Alberta, we have most of our elementary textbooks online, so if a child forgets to bring home books, their textbooks can be accessed online.  We also have ExamBank, a great resource to take practice tests.  There are also numerous resources for the novel studies, and free worksheet websites to help with grammar, punctuation, and parts of speech.)
  10. Conclude the interview with sharing another positive observation about their child, and if possible  follow-up a week or two after the interview.  (I usually like to send an email, thanking the parent for their time in coming in and commenting on improvements seen in class a couple of weeks after the interview.)

Parents:

  1. Prior to the meeting, PRAY.  I cannot emphasize that enough.  It is vital to have the meeting undergirded with prayer prior to the appointment, during and after the meeting.
  2. Do not bring your child to the interview (or younger/older siblings) to a meeting unless you have been directed to do so by the teacher.  An interview that includes the child will be directed by the teacher in a far different manner than a frank discussion between a parent and a teacher.  It will be more inclusive of the child and he/she will be an active participant.  Also turn OFF your smart phone.
  3. Try to come to the interview with the attitude that the teacher has the best interests of their students in mind and so the teacher is not “out to get” your child.  Starting a meeting as an adversary will not be productive.
  4. To put a teacher at ease, start with a positive comment on how your child is responding positively in the classroom.  Teachers need those encouraging words!
  5. Be prepared to listen as well as talk.  Express your concerns with the idea that you and the teacher are partners and it is a team effort to ensure your child will succeed in the classroom.  Say things like: “How can I partner with you to help (child) become successful in class?”  “Do you have suggestions on how I can work at home with (child) on homework or behaviour?”
  6. Ensure you actually do take the teacher’s suggestions if he/she gives you some.  Nothing is more frustrating for a teacher than when there has been a good exchange of ideas at the interview but no follow-up at home.
  7. DO NOT speak unkindly or disrespectfully about the teacher at home after the interview in front of your child or with other parents.  It causes considerable problems in the classroom if a child loses respect for their teacher and this can impede learning for your child as well as other children in the class.  A good rule of thumb is: “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”  (The same is true for teachers speaking about children and parents in the staff room…recognize that there are appropriate and inappropriate times to talk about specifics but gossip is NEVER okay!)
  8. Speak about your concerns in a gentle manner.  Teachers will go on the defensive if they feel they are being “attacked”.  If you have a serious concern about a teacher (their character, their teaching style, etc.), ask before the interview to have a school administrator present at the meeting.  DO NOT bring your child to that kind of a meeting (see point 6).
  9. Stick to the topic at hand.  The parent-teacher interview is to discuss the learning environment and the progress your child is making in the classroom.  There is a limited time allotted for interviews and you don’t want to get side-tracked and talk about topics that have nothing to do with your child’s learning.  If a teacher gets side-tracked, you have the right to say: “Shall we just limit our conversation to helping my child achieve success in the classroom?”
  10. Tell the teacher at the end of the interview that you will pray for them as they teach in the classroom.  Knowing I have praying parents empowers me in the classroom!  It is the kindest thing a parent can do for a teacher!

 

 

 

 

 

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This entry was posted in Proverbs 16:9 - Journey Thoughts, Teach on, Teacher! and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to How to Conduct a Good Parent-Teacher Interview

  1. trustmeimadramateacher says:

    I hate talking to parents! Some useful ideas.

  2. sptchmom777 says:

    I have also been on both sides of the desk, as well as conducted IEP meetings. Your post is spot on, thanks for sharing.

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