Face-to-face meetings with parents enable you to put names to faces, and are often the first step to developing great working relationships. Building rapport by identifying and discussing student strengths, interests, concerns and possible solutions early in the year can be reassuring to both you and parents.
Most meetings early in the year focus on parents telling teachers what they know about their child. However, at times teachers will be confronted with unexpected or challenging information or a difficult question.
One technique to deal with unexpected or confronting statements is to say, ‘I’m glad you shared this with me, I’m sorry/sad that this situation has occurred, but I’m sure that (with the right help) we can develop a workable solution over time’.
The ‘glad, sorry, sure’ approach can make it easier for everyone involved to manage their thinking and emotions when agreeing on or working towards solutions. This response also gives you time to consider possible options, who else to involve such as the special needs/wellbeing coordinator, assistant/deputy principal, or referral to the school counsellor/psychologist.
At the beginning of the year, it can be really useful to use your time with the parents to ask the following questions:
- Does (name) have any special interests?
- What are (nameʼs) strengths, skills or aspirations for learning this year?
- Are there any issues, which may impact on (name’s) learning and wellbeing?
- Are there school or home issues or concerns about (name) which worry you?
- What things work best for (name) when difficulties arise? (This can be for a specific issue or in general).
- What is your preferred method of communication (face-to-face meetings, email, phone)? What are the best times to contact you and meet with you?
Record this information for each child and use it as needed. Follow up on any issues, or referrals discussed with the parent. As most meetings are short (e.g. 10 minutes long), a second meeting may need to be organised for those students or parents with additional needs or concerns. Explain this at the beginning or during the meeting.
Prior to the parent-teacher interview it can be helpful to send home a copy of the questions you will ask parents. This gives parents a chance to reflect and think constructively about their child, and how the child might best be supported in the classroom.
Zoe Ganim and Murray Evely, Psych4Schools Psychologists