Most schools are nearing the end of their first grading period and traditionally this is when parent conferences are usually planned. Often this conferences take the shape of telling the parents all the “wrong” things their child is doing to earn a bad grade – or it is a time for the parents of the high performing students to come to school to hear how great their child is or is doing. All too often the successful students’ families are more likely to attend. Which speaks to the success of those students – family involvement and engagement is a strong determinant of student success. The low performing students have a lower “turn out” for conferences, Open House, etc... There are a myriad of reasons for this lack of involvement; intimidation with the system, do not speak English, exhausted due to the strain of poverty, lack of time, cultural barriers, and not wanting to hear another negative thing about their child – I do not believe they are absent due to a lack of caring for their child nor do I believe they do not care about their child’s success. These parents need to feel welcome and empowered.
At our school we started a tradition of “goal setting” meetings at the beginning of the school year. This was a school-wide effort at our school. This may not be possible at your school if the leadership does not endorse this policy, but as a teacher you can still have some of the same elements in your parent/teacher meetings. In fact this goal setting idea grew out of ideas from two of my teachers (I was a principal) one teacher always (on his own time) met with families at the beginning of the year to set expectations and to have a positive “first” interaction, another teacher came up with the goal setting at conferences (she was tired of the same old, same old negative interactions, that really did not affect change) – I combined these ideas and expanded upon them – let me tell you what we did and the results.
We created a one sheet contract with data such as tests scores, in-progress grades etc. and the teacher or team of teachers stated a positive observation and an opportunity for improvement or growth (this needs to be in a positive “voice” not critical) for the student – we then shared the contracts with the students and they came up with a goal or goals. We then invited parents to meet with us – we were very proactive about getting them to attend. The students actually helped to get their parents to the meetings because they knew the meetings were going to be positive and that the teacher was going to say some “god” about them. At our school (a low performing middle school) we had 97% turn out plus the meetings were heartwarming, emotional, empowering, and productive. At the meeting the teacher, parent and student agreed to the goals and how they would support and attain the goals. A Huge growth mindset!!! They were wonderful, powerful meetings with smiles and tears of joy everywhere.Goal Setting Meetings Video