May 2021 Newsletter – Family-Teacher Conferences: Director’s Corner: Supporting the Process

Members of leadership are involved in family-teacher conferences differently, depending on the size and structure of the program. Teachers need to own the process as much as possible. Leaders should support teachers and empower them to step into this professional role. Here are a few ways that members of leadership can support the family-teacher conference process, whether it is in-person or virtual:

  • Scheduling – Setting up the program’s schedule for conferences will be necessary because room coverage will be required during conference time. This also means that the budget for payroll will be impacted by family-teacher conferences.
  • Creating clear goals – During a staff meeting, work with your team to create a list of goals for the conferences. Ask employees to brainstorm a list of goals, then come together and revise them to align with the overall goals of building relationships, improving communication, enhancing quality, and strengthening child development.
  • Promote participation – Be sure to encourage each family to sign up and participate in the conference process.
  • Identify and address barriers – It may be necessary to help families to participate, especially if you are using a virtual platform. Share detailed and easy-to-read instructions for preparing for a virtual meeting. If you discover that families cannot participate due to the timeslots offered, add additional timeslots at different times of the day.
  • Introduce the virtual meeting tool to staff – Teachers who are conducting virtual conferences should be able to “walk into the room” with confidence. Make sure each teacher is familiar with and comfortable using the virtual meeting space.
  • Practice scenarios – Conference conversations can be challenging. Help build confidence by role-playing different scenarios with your staff. This can be done individually, with teaching teams, or as a whole group during a staff meeting. Pick topics that are relevant to whole groups if you choose to work with the whole group – or allow teachers to pick their own challenging situations to role-play.
  • Help identify resources – Most programs have a list of outside resources that they share with families. Some resources may be more familiar to your staff than others. Be sure your resources list is up-to-date, accurate, and available to all. In some instances, additional research into resource options may be required. Help staff by doing some of that legwork.
  • Refreshments – If you are holding in-person conferences, it might be nice to provide light refreshments for the families who are participating.
  • Translation services – It may be necessary to employ the use of a translator during conferences. Leaders can take the lead on arranging translators once the conference schedule is set.
  • Documentation – Design or identify documentation tools that teachers can use to take notes and keep track of goals that are set during the meeting. You can work with your team to create a conference summary page that is partially filled out during teacher prep time. The rest of the tool can be completed during the conference and a copy can be given to families at the end of the conference.

For the main article Family-Teacher Conferences, CLICK HERE

For the article Things to Do Before Conferences, CLICK HERE

For the article Things to Do During Conferences, CLICK HERE

For the article Things to Do After Conferences, CLICK HERE

May 2021 Newsletter – Family-Teacher Conferences: Things to Do After Conferences

Following up after conferences is essential to supporting children’s development and maintaining relationships. Here are some things you can do after conferences are over:

  • Send a follow-up email or note thanking the family and reminding them of any agreed-upon plans for supporting their child’s development.
  • Ask family members if they have noticed any changes in their child since trying new activities or strategies.
  • Follow-up on whether families need help accessing any recommended outside resources.
  • Schedule another meeting or call to answer any questions that have come up or to set new goals for the child.
  • Encourage families to reach out with any questions on concerns they have about their child.
  • Include any observations about conference topics on the child’s daily report.
  • Reflect on what worked and any improvements you might need to make for the next round of conferences. For example, if several families were surprised about the topics covered during the conference, you may need to enhance your daily communication efforts. If you ran over the allotted time on several occasions, you could either lengthen the meeting time or try to better focus your conversations in the future.
  • Address any technical issues that arise on virtual platforms. Seek support from members of leadership or coworkers who have experience using the tool. Share anything you have learned with your team so others can avoid the technical issues you encountered.
  • Most importantly, create learning experiences designed to address the goals identified during the meeting. Create a list of the different goals and skills discusses across all conferences. Look for commonalities and create learning experiences that will enhance those skills. Work one-on-one or in small groups to target specific skills.

For the main article Family-Teacher Conferences, CLICK HERE

For the article Things to Do Before Conferences, CLICK HERE

For the article Things to Do During Conferences, CLICK HERE

For the article Director’s Corner: Supporting the Process, CLICK HERE

May 2021 Newsletter – Family-Teacher Conferences: Things to Do During Conferences

Here are a few things you might want to do during your conference conversations:

  • Welcome and thank families for their participation.
  • Remind parents of the goals of the meeting and the scheduled time frame of the meeting.
  • Set a timer and be mindful of the clock. Let family members know you have set a timer out of respect for everyone’s time.
  • Start by asking how they feel about their child’s development and progress at home and school. See if families have any goals for their child that the program can help support. Ask them to share any observations or concerns they may have about how their child is developing or behaving.
  • Share copies of assessment materials, but focus your attention on the highlighted areas that you identified during your conference preparation. Remember to include both strengths and areas for improvement.
  • Provide samples from the child’s portfolio to illustrate skills the child has achieved and those the child is working toward.
  • Use growth-mindset language when communicating about children’s development. Phrases that communicate that a child is still working on certain skills are better than pointing out things the child can’t do.
  • Identify goals for the child and talk about realistic timelines for reaching goals. For example, if a family wants their 3-year-old daughter to write her name, you can agree that writing is a program goal (even if it might not be a goal for this year). You can then share all of the fine motor activities that you use to strengthen skills and promote drawing, letter recognition, and kid-writing. Show samples of the child’s work from her portfolio and discuss strategies to move the child toward writing her name.
  • Discuss the strategies that you use in the classroom to promote different skills and behaviors. Encourage family members to think of how they might adapt these strategies for use at home.
  • If the conversation runs over the allotted time, offer a second meeting to dig into the issues at hand. Do so especially if the conference is running over a conference with another family.
  • Take notes so that you don’t forget any of the details of your discussion. It may be difficult to take notes during your conversation, but be sure to capture the goals you set during the meeting. Immediately after the meeting, go back to your notes and fill in any missing pieces while your memory is still fresh.

For the main article Family-Teacher Conferences, CLICK HERE

For the article Things to Do Before Conferences, CLICK HERE

For the article Things to Do After Conferences, CLICK HERE

For the article Director’s Corner: Supporting the Process, CLICK HERE

May 2021 Newsletter – Family-Teacher Conferences: Things to Do Before Conferences

Whether conferences are in person or virtual, here are some things you should consider prior to conference time.

  • Determine the length of time you will need to conduct the conferences, between 15 and 20 is the average, but you may need a few more minutes. Create a manageable schedule that allows enough time to give full attention to each family. Conference time slots can be scheduled over multiple weeks.
  • Provide plenty of notice and time to sign up for a preferred time slot.
  • Schedule time slots at different times of day to accommodate families with different work schedules.
  • Create a schedule that allows for time between each meeting in case a conversation runs over the allotted time. This prevents you from having to cut one meeting short or making the next family wait.
  • Clarify the goals of conferences with other members of your team.
  • Send a letter/email containing the goals to families so they are familiar with the intended outcomes of the meeting. This should include a reiteration that the meeting is designed to be a conversation. Invite families to share their observations and questions about their child’s development, which can be done prior to or during the meeting.
  • Review assessment and portfolio materials and create a list of things you want to highlight for each child. Be sure to pick both strengths and areas for improvement to highlight.
  • Organize assessment materials based on what you want to show families, in order of how you would like the conversation to flow. This will convey an organized and professional message to families.
  • Practice potential challenging conversations with a coworker or supervisor. Create sample answers to anticipated questions. Talk with others who have conducted conferences with the families to see what kinds of questions they have asked in the past.
  • Identify any outside resources that you want to share with the family. Get them ready so families can walk away with the information they need.
  • Remind families of the date and time of the meetings during drop-off, pick-up, or via email a few days before the scheduled event.
  • Whenever possible, set up a conference space with adult-sized furniture. Plan to sit beside families rather than across a desk from them to promote a feeling of collaboration.
  • Prior to a conference starting, take a few deep breaths, smile, and welcome the family warmly.

For virtual conferences:

  • Practice setting up and starting virtual meetings using the tool you will be using. They are not all the same so you will want to be confident as you start your meetings without difficulties.
  • Decide where you will be set up for the virtual meetings. Consider the background that appears on the screen. Is it neat and organized? Does it portray a professional look and feel? Will people be walking in and out of the space? There are options on some tools to use a background template that could help address any concerns you have about your background.
  • Practice using the other tools that are available on the platform you are using. Many virtual meeting hosts provide video tutorials about their features that you might find helpful.
  • Prepare any outside resources to share with families electronically.
  • Recognize that some families may not have access to a device or the internet. Other families may not be familiar with how to download a meeting application to a device. You may need to coach families into this different realm of meeting space.
  • Provide alternatives, such as phone calls, for families who may have technology barriers.

For the main article Family-Teacher Conferences, CLICK HERE

For the article Things to Do During Conferences, CLICK HERE

For the article Things to Do After Conferences, CLICK HERE

For the article Director’s Corner: Supporting the Process, CLICK HERE

May 2021 Student Spotlight – Meghan Croft

I began my career in early childhood as an assistant teacher in a mixed age preschool and pre-kindergarten classroom.  After having received my degree in elementary education and completing all my student teaching in elementary-age classrooms, this was my first experience in an early childhood setting – and I knew it was right where I was meant to be!  I went on to teach for four years before attending graduate school full time.  After graduation, I jumped right back into the classroom at a cooperative preschool, which is where I have been teaching ever since.

I love being a teacher and working with preschool-age children because it provides an opportunity to teach the whole child and support all aspects of a child’s social-emotional, cognitive, and language development.  Also, I really value the relationships that I create with my students and their families.  Oftentimes, I get to be a child’s first teacher and their first school experience, so it is important to me that I create a learning environment and classroom community that is welcoming, nurturing, and most importantly, is a place that my students enjoy being a part of!

My favorite time of day to spend with my students is during our morning free play time.  During this time of day, I am able to circulate around the classroom and spend quality time with my students – whether it be doing a “building challenge” in the block area together, reading with a child in the classroom library, or getting messy with paint and other materials at the art table.  I love creating curriculum and thematic activities/projects for my students and watching them be excited and eager to participate.  Having the opportunity to be part of a child’s growth and development, as well as observing them learn and try something new, is very rewarding!

I completed the Director’s Certificate Program through CCEI at the end of last year.  I thoroughly enjoyed the program and working with my Education Coach.  I highly recommend the Director’s Certificate Program to anyone looking to learn about administrative opportunities in early childhood.  I hope to use my Director’s certificate one day in the future to take on a combined administrative and classroom teacher role.

Virtual Family-Teacher Conferences

The May 2021 newsletter is all about preparing for and conducting family teacher conferences. In the newsletter, we provide a number of strategies to consider when holding virtual conferences, but there is so much to consider, we want to share more ideas here. If you find yourself preparing for virtual conferences this year, keep these things in mind:

  • Accessibility – Webinar and online meeting providers are all a bit different. Check with the tool your program uses to see if they have features such as closed-captioning. Some programs may allow you to create a transcript of the meeting as well.
  • Showing children’s work – Practice holding children’s work up to the camera in a way that gives families a chance to see the work and the detail you are describing. Some programs may have access to an overhead camera that pieces of work can be slid under for viewing. If you do not have access to something like this, hold the item steady and make sure it displaying in the frame correctly. You might consider sending scans of the items you know you want to share to families ahead of time. That will limit the number of pieces you are showing that could be shaky, out of focus, or out of frame.
  • Screen-sharing – Sharing your screen may be an option for showing documents via the camera. This only really works for the preplanned documents you want to share, such as a developmental checklist or a specific work sample you want families to see. Be sure to practice switching between the camera view and sharing your screen. Confirm that the family can see your screen before proceeding. Also, if you are going to be in screen-share mode, be mindful of the files you have open and your desktop background.
  • Speak slowly and carefully – Virtual meeting tools respond differently depending on the speed of your connection. Be sure to speak slowly and carefully. Refrain from speaking over the other members of the meeting. Watch body language closely for signs that you have cut out or have been misunderstood. This is much harder to do in an online meeting than it is in face-to-face meetings.
  • Recording – Many virtual meeting tools have a record function that will make documenting your conversations that much easier. Decide whether to make the recordings available to families.
  • Limit distractions – Distractions will likely occur on both ends of the virtual conference. On your end, find a location that limits the chance you will be interrupted. Encourage families to do the same. Be flexible and recognize that you might need to reschedule the meeting, rather than pushing through a situation where anyone on the call is distracted.
  • Allow more time – By the time that everyone is logged in, dialed in, and dealt with common technology frustrations, 5 minutes of your precious conference time could be gone. Consider adding 5 minutes to virtual meetings to ensure you have the time you need to address the needs of the child and the family.

As you learn new virtual meeting tricks, be sure to share them with your teammates. Together you will make it through family-teacher conferences without a hitch.

May 2021 Newsletter – Family-Teacher Conferences

Let’s face it, things look a lot different in 2021 than they have in the past. There is an eagerness to return to the way things were, without social distancing, masks, and restrictions on gatherings. Despite all of the changes, the importance of family communication and engagement is as important as ever.

End-of-year family-teacher conferences are a great way for programs to boost family engagement. They are also essential for supporting children’s growth and development. These conversations can strengthen relationships between families and teachers, families and children, and teachers and children. During conferences, plans can be made to discuss progress, address concerns, and plan for transitions. It is also a good time to share resources and strategies to create consistency between school and home.

This year, conferences may look and feel a bit different, especially if conferences are being held virtually. This month’s newsletter will explore steps that can be taken before, during, and after conferences to ensure that they are valuable and productive for everyone involved.

For the article Things to Do Before Conferences, CLICK HERE

For the article Things to Do During Conferences, CLICK HERE

For the article Things to Do After Conferences, CLICK HERE

For the article Director’s Corner: Supporting the Process, CLICK HERE