At many schools across the United States, it’s parent-teacher conference time.

Although being able to collaborate with parents is important, conference night can sometimes leave both parties feeling like they were unable to have a productive meeting due to the rushed nature and limited timeframe of the event.

Search Institute’s work with families has given us some insights on how to help teachers make the exchange on conference night more productive.

Our President and CEO, Kent Pekel, has tips for teachers who hope to make the most out of conferences:


  1. Be the expert, but listen to their concerns. Parents expect you to be adept at teaching, but they want to feel that you value their input too. Not focusing only on the child’s weaknesses, but also their strengths, can help parents feel like you know their child.
  2. Don’t start with the negative. Don’t begin the conversation with “I have no concerns” – that starts the exchange in deficit mode. Instead, start with a simple, plain language description of the three things you hope the students learns by being in your class.
  3. Put your goals into words. Giving a syllabus or written materials is great, but creating a narrative to discuss your goals for the class is better. Talk about what you hope to accomplish during the semester with some excitement.
  4. Provide feedback – both good and bad. Give them the feedback you need to provide, such as review of grades, assignments.  But if you feel it’s necessary to point out a deficit, then try to also point out a strength.
  5. Before they leave, ask a question. This is one of the most important ways a parent can see that you care about their child and are seeking to develop a positive relationship with them. Something such as “What do you think I should know about your son or daughter to help him or her succeed in my class?” works. Or something more specific, such as “Tell me about your child’s sparks”, or perhaps their strengths, struggles, or supports.
  6. Take notes on what you learn from the parent. Integrate what you learn from the parent into your interaction with the student and return to your notes at your next parent-teacher conference. Parents wants to know their child is seen and cared for and that you are paying attention to the insights they are sharing with you about their child.

Teachers, do you have more ideas for successful parent-teacher conferences? Please share them in the comments section below the video.

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