1. Give more time than you are supposed to. No, it won't be easy and you will miss your own family like crazy. But...not feeling rushed gives both the teacher and the parents the chance to actually communicate with each other. Stay on schedule, but give more time...it will be worth it. At the end of each late night, my co-teacher Tara Frederick and I would look at each other and comment about how nice it was not to feel so incredibly rushed. It wasn't just us that felt that way, many of our families commented on how nice it was to be able to talk back and forth rather than rushing in for 15 minutes to have information spewed at you with no real dialogue.
2. Start the conference by honoring what the parents concerns are. We chose to start every conference by saying something like, "Tonight's time together is a chance for us to talk about your child. Any concerns, questions or general wonderings are welcome. I have a lot of information to share with you, but, you know most if not all of it already. So, let's just talk...about how amazing your child is." Many times the parents didn't have concerns and so we lead with their work samples and eventually the parent struck up a conversation. There were many though that had something specific they wanted to tell us. While most of those precious moments remain with Tara and I, it was so reaffirming to hear feedback from our parents that supported the work we are doing.
3. Tell your student how much you loved talking with their family. Most students get really nervous for parent teacher conferences. Sometimes rightfully so, but most of the time there is no reason for the student to be nervous. I loved the face students gave me when I told them how much I loved talking with their parents. You could see their pride from ear to ear. I would give some kind of connection or compliment about the students family and you could see the school home connection strengthening.
There were so many special moments during the last two weeks. So many great conversations, so much relationship building and so much support for our students. So I'll say it again...relationships matter-how are you building relationships that support student learning?