Are you about to follow up hours of student report writing with parent-teacher interviews? These interviews offer
a great opportunity to build partnerships with the parents of your students. To maximise short interview times you need to be highly organised.
Make notes for each child. It can be helpful to create an index card or note page for each child listing key points. This will help you to remember key points you wish to discuss and can enable you quickly move from one interview to the next.
Make the space inviting. Arrange seating comfortably, dress professionally, and ensure lighting and room temperature are adequate. You may like to provide a dish of mints or biscuits.
Begin on a positive note. Begin the interview in a cheerful manner, thanking parents for their time and recounting something positive about their child. Ask them to share something in return perhaps they have noticed a particular interest or strength for their child. Remember, most parents are a little nervous and some will bring baggage to the interview. They may have had unpleasant school experiences, or a series of meetings focussed on their child’s difficulties or inappropriate behaviour. Take a moment to put parents at ease and reassure them that you value their time and care about their child.
Discuss mainly positive points. Ensure any negative points are balanced with something positive. If you have issues to raise related to learning or behaviour, limit the discussion to one or two that are of most concern.
Be proactive about the negatives. For each negative point explain what you will do at school to support the child and suggest a few strategies that parents might help with at home. It is helpful to have several samples of work or other information to support any issues raised.
Keep interviews to time. Don’t run late. If there is more that needs to be said, schedule a second meeting. It will be more difficult to engage and connect with parents if they have been kept waiting.
Take notes. Take notes about key information, particularly anything that needs to be followed up. Check you have a current contact number if you need to phone the parents following the interview.
Thank parents for their time. Remember to thank the parents at the conclusion of the interview and arrange a follow-up if there are points that need further discussion.
Remember, teachers and parents generally have the shared goal of wanting the best for the child.
* Note: for children whose parents do not live together, it may be wise to establish whether the parents prefer joint or separate interviews. In some cases where there is a high level of conflict between the parents it may be advisable to invite a senior staff member to join the interview regardless of whether both parents are being seen together or separately.