Having completed my Hong Kong school’s annual Parent Teacher conferences, it is time to reflect and celebrate. After twenty-three years of teaching, I find that I still get butterflies. Below are some thoughts about how I approach each individual Parent-Teacher Conference. If you are a new teacher or new to the international school scene, I hope this helps.
- “Which kids in the classroom does your child consider to be friends?”
- “How does your kid feel about school this year?”
- “What changes in study habits have you seen this year?”
- “What do I need to know about your kid?”
- “What would you like me to do for your kid?
- How has your child handled the move to Hong Kong?
- How has your child adjusted to the classroom?
Few challenge this approach and I find that even fewer parents are hesitant to speak about their kids. This helps gets the conference started in a positive direction. It also, signals to the parents that I consider their partnership to be a priority.
I rarely set any predetermined goals for any of my students. Rather, I set goals with the parents while in the midst of the discussion. This tends to be more authentic and allows the parents to directly impact their child’s education. I notate all agreements immediately after our talk and act on our shared plans as soon as possible.
I intentionally keep student work nearby but do not let it become a focal point of the discussions. The work is important and should be presented. However, I have found that it is easy to get bogged down on minutia when I rely too much on kid’s work. Rather, I keep the conversation flowing by talking about the curriculum and the student’s positive reaction from my teaching.
I offer advice but I always ask before doing so. I have no kids of my own so I tend to stay away from trying to give advice to parents. Conversely, I view that it is my duty to support and to affirm their good work.
I give a “temperature check” of the parents’ emotional state as they enter the room. I sit in a comfortable chair and position myself at a slant in order to be as non-confrontational as possible. As parents leave, I bow, shake hands or give a hug depending on the situation. I always say thank you and plea for the parents to keep me updated on any pending changes or transitions that I would need to know.
Finally, below are tips that I have found to be useful:
- Offer professional books to read.
- Acknowledge the difficulties of living overseas.
- Provide evidence of learning.
- Stay balanced and fresh. No blogging, paying bills, or vacation planning.
- “It is not about you.”
- Be punctual.
- You are an ambassador of your school, you are a professional, be true to your school’s mission.
- Be quick to forgive.
- Be reassuring.
- Do not recommend outside tutoring ever.
- Be realistic.
- Brush your teeth after lunch.
- Have a blast and appreciate the moment.