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