It’s the time of year for Parent Teacher Conferences! You may remember my blog about how to make the most of Back to School Night in the fall! If your district is like mine, Back to School Night is in September. Then we have Parent Teacher [or Therapist!] Conferences right before Thanksgiving. Just like Back to School Night, it can be really challenging as a related service provider, with a large caseload [likely at numerous buildings and/or districts] to participate in Parent Teacher Conferences or Open Houses. However, I encourage you to take full advantage of the opportunity! Here are my top 3 tips for making the most of Parent Teacher Conferences:
- Communicate & plan with teachers
- Consider IEPs/revisions
- Show off student work
(1) Communicate & Plan with Teachers
Communicating early and often is key to having a good turnout for Parent Teacher Conferences. If you haven’t already, send out a meet the teacher/therapist note, so your families are familiar with you [get yours FREE here!]. If conferences are scheduled out at the beginning of the year, have parents “save the date”! Then, they won’t come as a surprise to families!
Many parents have more than one student in school, or their child has more than one teacher. These parents will need to attend several conferences. At my district, students are not to attend their parent-teacher meetings, so childcare can be challenging for families. I’m always looking to maximize the parents’ time [and mine!]. Consider communicating with the homeroom and/or special education teachers to see if you can do a co-conference with them. I love to use this format for several reasons:
- Many key players of the team are sitting down together and collaborating with the parent and each other
- Consider inviting other members of the IEP team [i.e. speech therapist, physical therapist]
- I get to hear directly from the teacher how the student is doing in class
- It can be challenging to meet with each of my teachers individually during the school day
- As OTs, we are working towards successful function in the classroom setting!
- Both the parent and teacher can hear what we are working on in occupational therapy sessions
- I find this so important when working towards carryover of skills!
- I don’t have to worry about missing the family if they were to “prioritize” the teacher conference over one with related service providers
- You can “kill two birds with one stone”
(2) Consider IEPs/Revisions
When you are reviewing progress and collecting samples to share with the family during conferences, you might notice that a student has mastered a goal! Maybe, you have found a new need area that you’d like to address, but it isn’t specifically listed in the IEP. Conferences are a GREAT time to talk with the parent [and the rest of the team] about these changes, and get the paperwork signed in order to do so. I have often updated specially designed instruction (SDIs), service time or delivery format [group vs. individual], or added a goal during conferences. I find it so much easier than all of the communication/coordination that is required to do this during the school day.
(3) Show Off Student Work
Are you holding individual conferences in your room and are worried about how it will look for parents? Don’t sweat it! Your kiddos have done tons of awesome work so far this year — show it off! You can use crafts to create an adorable bulletin board in your room, or bring some of the crafts your students have created in a “portfolio” to show parents during the conference. If you don’t typically do crafts [or book companions!] with your students, I’m sure you have other work samples/activities that you can display around your room. I talk more about this in my DIY Bulletin Boards for Therapy blog!
Hopefully this post leaves you excited and inspired for the upcoming parent teacher conferences! I know it got my wheels turning as far as some ways to make conferences both efficient, effective and fun! We have Open House in the springtime, so I will be saving some ideas for those parent interactions as well! Check out some more back to school advice from the SSE Blogger Team, and find more tips on how to communicate with parents in Alyssa’s blog. Parent communication and collaboration is HUGE! Think how much more you can accomplish if parents, teachers and therapists are all working on the same things!