Disclaimer: CWS Software LLC sells a Parent-Teacher conference scheduling solution called PowerPTC, but the tips mentioned below should be helpful regardless of the scheduling method your organization uses.
1. Give Your Teachers Space
Many school districts do not have enough classrooms for each teacher to have their dedicated space, so teachers must share classrooms. This can make scheduling Parent-Teacher conferences difficult. Too often the solution is to put a large group of teachers into a gymnasium. Don’t do this. It makes for a loud bar-like experience where parents and teachers don’t have any privacy and it discourages both parties from speaking openly. Many districts have reported splitting classrooms in half and putting a teacher on each side, which is much preferred to packing everyone in a gym or auditorium.
2. The Goldilocks Meeting Length
Selecting the proper meeting length for parent-teacher conferences can be difficult. You need to provide enough time so that teachers don’t feel rushed communicating with parents. At the same time, if time slots are too long teachers may not have enough appointment slots to meet with all parents. While all districts are different, we have found that many districts find that 5 or 10 minute appointments tend to work best with more districts leaning toward 5 minutes. Districts report that this length provides them with enough time to convey the important details as well as to answer any questions the parents have.
3. Give Teachers a Break
Parent-teacher conferences, as with most meetings, tend to run long. As a result, it is important to provide teachers a means to catch up. Typically this is done with “break” appointments, where the teacher’s appointment is blocked out and the appointment isn’t allowed to be scheduled with a parent. These appointments allow for your teachers to regroup, take a breath, or take a bathroom break. Breaks are often overlooked when setting up parent-teacher conferences, but it is typically a good practice to give teachers at least one break on average per hour. For conferences that take place during lunch or dinner times, extended breaks should be assigned as well.
4. Travel Time
Passing periods allow for students to travel between classes. During your Parent-Teacher conferences, it is important to remember to leave time for your parents to travel between appointments. Remember that parents likely don’t know the exact layout of your buildings and will need time to travel between their appointments just as students would. Continuing with this parallel between parents and students, we recommend that you allow that same amount of time for parents to travel as you would for students. This seems to be the sweet spot that gives parents enough time to help keep conferences stress-free while limiting the amount of time parents spend at conferences in total.
5. More than Just Teachers
Parent-Teacher conferences are all about communication with your organization’s parents and community. This is also a great time to allow parents to meet with non-teaching staff as well. It can be beneficial to allow parents to schedule with other members of your organization’s team including principals, assistant principals, counselors, deans, coaches, etc. This is a great opportunity to introduce yourself to the community and increase parental engagement with your organization.
Parent teacher conferences are an important opportunity for your organization to meet with the parents and guardians of the students you serve. We all know that students with involved parents have a better educational experience than those that do not have involved parents. Parent-teacher conferences are one of the few chances where you can encourage this involvement. Hosting Parent-Teacher conferences is not a trivial task, but it is one that can bear fruit if it is well thought out and prepared for. Happy conferences!