As a dance teacher or studio owner, do you conduct parent-teacher conferences? If not, perhaps you are looking to start them in your school. Either way, parent-teacher conferences provide a great opportunity for developing a rich rapport among the student, parent and teacher. In turn this allows your student to know they are valued, upping their individual growth and productivity.
But, are there visceral reactions that bubble up from within when I utter the words parent-teacher conferences? Do beads of sweat begin to form on your brow? What about a slight, apprehensive tremble? There is no denying that when it comes to parent-teacher conferences some anxiety is present. Right?
Keep Calm and Conference On!
Well, wipe away the perspiration. Put the brakes on those quivers. Take a deep breath and relax. Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet school principal, Nicholas Ade, and I will help lead you down the road with four tips for successful conferencing.
Parent-teacher conferences are important.
Studies have been conducted. The evidence is clear. Students experience a higher level of overall success when students, parents and teachers are on the same page. Parents must be brought on board and kept informed. Doing so increase a dancer’s attendance, improve performance levels, and raise the barre on attitudes towards training. Things we all want in our schools.
“The goal is this: Teamwork. We want our parents to see us as an ally in their child’s training,” said Nicholas Ade. “We want our students to understand that, with their best interests at the heart of what we do, we are eager to come alongside them to help them reach their goals.”
How do you achieve this? Open the lines of communication. Discuss the student’s strengths. Share any concerns. Determine future plans for improvements and developments. This will begin to build trust. And in the long term, relationships will begin to be cultivated.
Now, you prepare!
Start by asking yourself a few questions. What exactly do I want to communicate in this parent-teacher conference? What am I looking to achieve during this meeting? What would I like the conference outcome to be?
“Begin collecting your thoughts about each student,” suggests Nick. “As you do, develop each conference agenda by balancing the student’s opportunities and challenges. The parent and student both need to hear what he or she is doing right, as well as what needs improvement.”
Most conferences last about 20 minutes. Jotting down real-life examples will keep you from belaboring a point.
Here you sit face-to-face.
You breezed through the good parts. As a parent myself I can tell you, I want to hear about my child’s strengths. You can almost see me beaming now through these words, can’t you!
When it is time to enter the needs improvement category, be solution-oriented. This approach helps to not overwhelm your parent or student. Most likely you are asking for a change. Offer up some “how tos.” It is really hard to get your arms around “You need to get stronger.” Expand on that with specific recommendations. “You need to get stronger. I believe taking some extra classes will help. Finding time for a few Pilates exercises or cross training will greatly benefit you, as well.” Giving actionable solutions shows that you believe in the student’s growth.
Wrap it up.
For the most part, people remember only about 20 percent of what they hear and 30 percent of what they see. Conclude your parent-teacher conference with a review of the action plans you have developed. Have the parent and child take down some notes. If no plans are needed, simply move on. Thank both your parent and student for their time.
“The worst kind of conference, quite frankly, is one in which the parent and/or student walk out confused.”
You may think an unpleasant conference is one in which disagreements or difficult information needs to be shared. “Not the case,” Nick assured me. “The words kind of conference, quite frankly, is one in which the parent and/or student walk out confused.”
To prevent this from happening have the parent and student tell you what was agreed upon. Check for any additional questions. And, if possible, remind them about when you are available for future questions.
Parent-teacher conferences can involve challenging issues. Expect that at some point a sensitive topic will come up. You will very possibly come across a parent or student who is taken completely by surprise in an evaluation.
Approach your parent-teacher conferences with a confident STEP:
- Sensitivity. Consider other’s feelings.
- Tone. Calm your emotions. Think before you respond.
- Evaluate. Deal with the facts.
- Perceptions. Adopt an open-minded attitude. Try putting yourself into their shoes.
Chances are you have many more conferences to go — maybe they are even waiting outside your door. Be sure to take a moment to catch your breath before heading into the next meeting.
Hopefully, we have supplied you with some useful advice, along with a solid game plan. Embrace each moment with your students and parents as an opportunity. With good preparation and plenty of support and clear communication for a path to success, you are sure to have a rewarding parent-teacher conference!