Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Seattle Schools Parent-Teacher Conferences - What Works?

 From the thread on The Source/Fusion:

Also, maybe this is a thread request, and potentially not relevant, but I am thinking about parent teacher conferences and what the expectations should be.

What do you learn in P/T conferences, and what would you like to learn? Any hints for making the conference time more effective? 

Both from the teacher POV and parent POV, what do you want from a parent/teacher conference?  


Kate Martin said...

There really weren't any in MS and HS when you really need the parents on the team. It should be about jobs, careers, and post-secondary plans. Real counseling, not course selection. My .02

Benjamin Leis said...

I'd like 2 a year rather than only 1 in the very beginning when the teacher barely knows the students.

Eric B said...

I'd like to see a few examples of the student's work, talk with the teacher about the student's strengths and what they need to improve, and talk about what (if anything) the parents can do to help the teacher. Finally, there should be a spot for parents to tell the teacher about problems.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I've never been to a parent teacher conference that was worthwhile. They're rushed, disorganized and superficial. I think they are a huge effort for teachers and I'm not even sure what teachers get out of them. Parents don't have time to ask questions. It's info dumping. I am going to make a guess that most teachers wish these conferences would go away.


Anonymous said...

2 a year. & what eric b. said.

mag mom

Anonymous said...

I also haven't found many to be helpful. I agree that more than once a year makes sense, but with the option of doing them (all or some) via email instead--at teacher's discretion? I don't generally need them to present me with copies of my child's work, as I see it when it comes home, or when I'm helping make sure they do it in the first place. What I really want to hear from them is if there are any problems, anything I should be doing to help out. If all is going well, it would save us all some time if they just sent a quick email a couple times a year to say "Hey, things are going well--your kid is doing a great job in x, y and z, but he could use some work on..."


Anonymous said...

I think I was thinking along the lines of what Kate Martin writes -- something substantive that helps you understand your child's strengths and weaknesses with a goal towards future planning.

I think I am getting what others describe, the feeling that the P/T conferences are mostly an opportunity to the P & T together in the same room, with the possibility of discussing issues if they exist.


Maje said...

So far, I've found them to be very helpful. Our teachers have supplied all the things that Eric B suggested, so they have been good conversations.

I like the November conference because it gives us a chance to review how things are going so far and make sure we're on a good track. Though I'd like a spring conference to do an update. I just schedule a mtg with the teacher if I feel like we need to review something.

Melissa Westbrook said...

" I just schedule a mtg with the teacher if I feel like we need to review something."

Are you an elementary parent? Because if not, tell us what middle/high school you are at. It is not my experience that you can just schedule a meeting with a teacher "to review something." I'd love to know a school where this is easy to do.

Anonymous said...

I wish teachers would send home the folder of work they go through the Friday before so we can go through it, take notes, and absorb the info and then bring it with us to the conference and have a real discussion about the kid on how to improve/support/direct learning (both academic and social). Currently I find them frustrating--too little time, too much data that I generally know, not enough insight.

Side note, have only needed to meet with a teacher once at Eckstein, but it was very easy to arrange. I've found middle school teachers to be as accessible as elementary teachers we've had (and far easier to reach over email).

--wanting more

Michael Rice said...

Melissa writes: Because if not, tell us what middle/high school you are at. It is not my experience that you can just schedule a meeting with a teacher "to review something." I'd love to know a school where this is easy to do.

Well, I can't speak for every teacher at Ingraham, but an e-mail or a phone call is all it takes to have a conference with me. Now I understand a conference with mom and dad in high school is WAY different that a conference in elementary school, but I think high school teachers are just as willing to talk to parents.

I have found the most valuable ally I have is the parent. I know I am pretty fortunate teaching the students I do at Ingraham (Algebra 1, IB Math Studies and AP Statistics). In general, they are in class and ready to learn and when things go off the rails, which they do sometimes, because, well, they are TEENAGERS after all, 99% of the time a quick talk with mom and/or dad and things are back to normal. I know that not every teacher has that going for them and I want to say that I think Ingraham parents Rock!!!

Melissa Westbrook said...

This is so good to hear about a meeting with a teacher. My experience in middle and high school is that I could not have a meeting just with a teacher but they always had another staff member with them. I was always surprised.

I concur, Michael, Ingraham is a great high school with a great principal, staff and parents. (And students, of course :)

Anonymous said...

Wow, last year at Whittier I had such a hard time getting meetings with the teachers/principal and I thought that meant the school had some real problems, because that was not my experience at the other public school where I had an elementary school student. At the other school, I met with the teacher once mid year because of something that came up and it only took one email. My older daughter is now in middle school. It's no problem to meet with a teacher. She meets with teachers for extra help when she needs it and they always make time for students who take the initiative. I have access via email to all the teachers and they usually get back to me within 24 hours. I have no doubt that if I needed to meet with the principal I would be able to get a meeting within a reasonable time frame. I think this is how it should be. Of course by high school kids should be more self sufficient, but in a special circumstance a parent should still be able to get a meeting. I am surprised to hear you say it's hard to get a meeting in most middle schools Melissa.

Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

I don't like the idea of two conferences a year if it would mean less class time. We really don't have three more school days to give up for that purpose. What about a "back to school night" type thing in the fall where you just meet the teacher and one conference later in the year.

Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

I don't think we need more middle/high school conferences, but I agree about elementary, one in the fall doesn't help much. For those I would like to see less telling me test scores and showing me work (don't you all get scads of papers home in backpacks?), and more strengths and weaknesses for my particular child, things they notice in the classroom environment, things I can help with, goals for my child, and heads up for things I should look out for coming up. I often feel like the meager time we have is wasted with them showing me things I already know, MAP scores and work I've seen already. I want to know what we are trying to do here, and how I can help. Not what score my kid can get on a computer quiz. I do wish there was a more formal way to talk about how things are going or whether we need to shift course in the mid spring.

In middle and high school I want the kid to be taking more charge of the relationship and their work, so it's different.


Anonymous said...

I have never felt a sense completion. Yes, they are rushed and not very useful. I agree that info is dumped and much of it requiring follow-up questions but there is never enough time. - Greg

Anonymous said...

I have found it very easy to meet with Ingraham teachers as well as Eckstein teachers. I always offer to bring the coffee. I have found these meetings much more productive than the elementary school conferences, maybe because we have more time or because it is not just a show & tell of my kid's work.

I wish they had more planning time built into their schedules so that a meeting didn't have to come from their personal hours.

-grateful parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

"I am surprised to hear you say it's hard to get a meeting in most middle schools Melissa."

I didn't say that. I explained my experience.

Anonymous said...

In elementary school what I found most helpful were the "portfolio nights" that classes had at AE2 (now Thornton Creek). We could go in and go through our children's portfolios (notebook with selected work showing progress from various times of the year - some student selected and some teacher selected) with our child. The teachers were accessible (although this was done with the whole class at once, not one-on-one with just our family). We had good middle school experience with conferences the last 3 years we were at Salmon Bay with a similar, student presented portfolio (although these were during conference days, so there was a time for just our family). I've never had problems with teacher accessibility during the whole time we have been in SPS. Our third child is a junior now - we can see the light at the end of the tunnel!

Parent of 2 SPS grads ('10; '13) and one high school student ('15)

Anonymous said...

We haven't reached HS yet but I have always heard back from our elementary and middle school teachers promptly when I have emailed about my kids. Most of the time w/in 24 hours, but rarely I have ping them back and they had been out or just hadn't had a chance to reply (the same is true in my own professional life). The same holds true for the principal too. I've found them very responsive and willing to provide feedback and set up meetings before or after school, though I've rarely had to do that.

We have had great PT conferences and blah PT conferences. I don't much care to get the standardized test scores (but I sense teachers may have to deliver that info at a conf, since they always do, even when I say I've seen their scores online). I too would like to see strengths, opportunities for improvement, goal setting/trajectory for the year as topics covered. I even think this could be accomplished by a template or form document sent home that is filled out by the teacher, where the parent is able to follow up depending on the feedback. (I know text is in the report card but I'm looking for more that 'X is a pleasure to have in class') I don't want to add to teacher responsibilities, though that could replace the PT conf for everyone, and result in PT conferences only where the teacher and/or the parents+students who need them more have them.

I do like the personal aspect of a conference - face to face discussion etc, but I make it a point to have that personal introduction early in the year too (welcome back events, curriculum night.)

eabased esti

Anonymous said...

Ingraham teachers rock. Always very responsive-- they call back, email. Martin Floe and other staff are also super responsive-- thanks, Ingraham -- and Mr. Rice, we hear great things from kids and parents alike-- thank you for what you do!

IB parent