Done well, parent-teacher conferences can be powerful tools for building trust and partnerships with the families at your early education center. In a recent webinar, we asked our community of directors, administrators, and teachers what their secrets were for hosting amazing conferences with their families. Here are their tried-and-true strategies!
What tips do you have for addressing families’ concerns and questions during parent-teacher conferences?
- Remember to listen to everything that parents have to say. Don’t assume you know what they’re asking and start answering before they have a chance to finish their thoughts!
- Put yourself in parents’ shoes and be reassuring and helpful.
- Prepare resources beforehand that will help you during the conference, such as student work and developmental checklists (like these lists from the CDC).
- Practice empathy and remind parents that you’re working on the same team—everyone wants what's best for the student!
- Send a pre-conference survey to parents to gather their questions and concerns. This way, you can prepare relevant classroom observations, student work, and other resources beforehand.
- Come prepared with lesson plans to share, as well as any assessment forms you use at your center.
- If students are invited to the conference, do a short activity with them so parents can experience a hands-on teaching moment.
- Pay attention to the parents’ body language. If they seem tense or nervous, remind them that you’re here to help and that you have their child’s best interests at heart.
- Find the right balance between being direct and empathetic. If there are real issues that need to be addressed, don’t skirt around them. Instead, share the issues, remind parents they’re not alone, and reassure them that you can find solutions by working together.
- Practice active listening by repeating what parents say, making eye contact, and asking clarifying questions.
- Don’t forget to use the powerful question, “How can I help?”.
- Use the positivity sandwich method—start and end the conference by sharing about their child’s strengths, improvements, and progress on milestones.
- Be patient. Many parents don’t know what to expect during conferences and aren’t knowledgeable about early education best practices. Educate parents by spelling out how you're helping their child learn and grow!
What special touches do you add to your parent-teacher conferences to make them memorable for families?
- Share how the student wrote their name on the first day of school and how they currently write their name so parents can see how much their child is improving.
- Decorate your classroom according to the season (for example, autumn or springtime decorations).
- Prepare a folder of the student’s work for parents to bring home, and include a list of their child’s strengths and how they make a positive difference in the classroom.
- Provide light refreshments. Coffee and donuts are always popular!
- Start the conference by asking how the parents are doing and referencing things they’ve shared during casual drop-off and pick-up conversations. This demonstrates that you care about them and that you’re always paying attention!
- Give parents a care package to take home that includes simple treats like tea bags and healthy snacks.
- Rearrange your classroom so it’s comfortable and inviting for parents. Use adult-sized furniture and buy fresh flowers for the room!
- Create a welcome banner that includes every student’s name on it.
- Give parents a certificate for their child that celebrates the milestones they recently achieved.
- Send parents home with a handwritten thank you note or framed artwork that their child made.
- Give parents a “day in the life of your child” photo collage that shows what their student does during a typical day at your center.
How do you keep the conversation going about student learning all year long, and not just during conferences?
- Give parents an activity to do at home with their child every week or month and ask them to post a photo of it to brightwheel.
- Use newsletters to share learning recaps and what lesson plans are coming up in the month ahead.
- Be intentional with conversations you have with families at drop-off and pick-up. Share student progress and milestones—even during casual chats!
- Create “Today We” boards that list out the day’s activities so parents can read them when they pick up their child.
- Start a private Facebook group to share classroom updates and ideas for how to continue the learning at home.
- Share 1-2 positive moments from each student's day with families at pick-up time.
- Make a suggestion box so parents feel comfortable sharing their ideas and know you value their feedback.
- Send learning updates in brightwheel using photos and videos of the student’s activities and work.
- Send weekly recaps of each student’s progress or what you’re currently working on with the student.
- Create a blog for your center where you can share daily or weekly updates about what students are learning.
- Remember to ask parents to share their observations about student progress too! They may observe things at home that are helpful for you to know about.
How brightwheel can help
With brightwheel, you can easily share student learning with parents so they’re always in the loop (and always reminded of how much value your center is providing their child).
Brightwheel makes it easy to:
Share photos and videos of student learning
Record observations to track towards important milestones
Send newsletters to keep families updated on lesson plans and other classroom activities
Message parents with quick updates and observations
We hope these suggestions sparked some new ideas that will help you build stronger partnerships with the parents at your center. Thank you for everything you do for your students and families!
For stress-free planning, download our parent-teacher conference checklist!
Brightwheel is the complete solution for early education providers, enabling you to streamline your center’s operations and build a stand-out reputation. Brightwheel connects the most critical aspects of running your center—including sign in and out, parent communications, tuition billing, and licensing and compliance—in one easy-to-use tool, along with providing best-in-class customer support and coaching. Brightwheel is trusted by thousands of early education centers and millions of parents. Learn more at www.mybrightwheel.com.