Parent-Teacher Conferences: Presume Positive Intent Makes Sense #BCSLearns

No doubt some, if not many of those around me, could grow tired of my relentless focus on presuming positive intent.  As many of us prepare for connecting with parents next week, sharing the learning and goals of our students with them, and partnering to further their progress for the next quarter, the Harvard Family Research Project (October 2010) outlines key elements that we, as educators must include in our conversation.  Notice what tops the list!

“BE HEARD”
Keep these principles in mind for a great parent–teacher conference:

  • Best intentions assumed
  • Emphasis on learning
  • Home–school collaboration
  • Examples and evidence
  • Active listening
  • Respect for all
  • Dedication to follow-up

For a detailed report of Harvard’s research study, check out their Parent-Teacher Conference Tip Sheets for principals, teachers and parents.  I find it interesting that in the above acronym, “Best intentions assumed” is named first.  Is it coincidental that this is so near and dear to my heart?  What might other lead with reminding us to keep in mind during the important opportunities to dialogue?  In an Edutopia post, Elena Aguilar shares her Tips for Parent-Teacher Conference, and leading the list, “Approach Parents with Positive Assumptions”.  Not only is it the right thing to do, it feels good!

May your conference begin with Positive Intent, focus on celebrations and goals to grow through clear examples and evidence, and prove your dedication through effort and follow-up.   As Aguilar concludes and my hope for each of us is to never “underestimate the power of the positive, and lead with it. Be specific in the positive data you share — tell an anecdote or show a piece of work. Make sure you truly feel this positivity. We can all sniff out empty praise. There is always, always something positive and praise-worthy about every single child. It’s your job to find it and share that data with parents.”  And, for a bit of humor, check out the following…

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7 thoughts on “Parent-Teacher Conferences: Presume Positive Intent Makes Sense #BCSLearns

  1. Vicki Lowery

    I always appreciate the reminders about conferencing each time they come around. Both as a teacher and a parent, I think it is so important to LISTEN. Everyone wants to be heard. It always helps me to think that parents want what they believe is best for their child. When I keep this in mind, it helps me to be a better listener, especially if I have a different viewpoint, or if they come across as upset or angry. That thought also helps me to support my thoughts and ideas if I feel what I am doing is best for a child.

    We had our students fill out reflection sheets and goals based on those reflections for the upcoming conferences. The Harvard article mentions this, and it is a very good focal point because it comes from what the students feel is important at this stage in their learning. Sometimes what the adults think is not necessarily the best route to take.

    Both of these articles are very good. They would be helpful to put into the hands of new teachers as they navigate through conferencing.

    Reply
    1. Scarlet Butzin, Julie Frishman, Morris Wallington, Lynne Parkin

      We too appreciate reminders around conferences time. The article mentions that it is a very important for kids to reflect. We had our students complete self-evaluations before we conferenced with their parents. Students came prepared to discuss their learning and goals. This put the emphasis back on student learning and gives them the opportunity to track and reflect on their learning. They can also use this time and these resources to reflect on their own growth. We’re happy to hear that 5/6 also employs this self evaluation process as our students will have had practice here with us in 3/4.

      Reply
  2. Pingback: Student Involved Conferences-Leadership & Partnership #BCSLearns | Learn-Lead-Love

  3. Caroline Spencer

    As I read this I thought to myself that we do such a great job with having kids self reflect for these conferences. However, I think it should be a practice that is integrated more throughout the year. My question is- how do we change the mind-set of the parents. I do notice a lower turn out during the student led – or parents don’t bring the student?

    Reply
    1. Leon

      When it comes to conferences, I take a different approach when dealing with 7th/8th grade. Parents/Teacher conferences, focus on various themes that requires students to reflect however to look forward in the coming years.
      Themes:
      What makes a good leader, what qualities do we look for in a leader, what are their strengths that could make them a leader
      What is their resume going to look like in 4 years from now – applying for colleges, getting involved, clubs, athletics, groups( Musicals,Drama – stage crew). Try to instill the positives in each individual.
      Organization – discuss various techniques that they are familiar with to succeed in High School
      Character traits that represent themselves, getting students to interact and feel good about themselves.
      Stress the importance of doing well in High School, and not to give up

      Reply
  4. Leon

    When it comes to conferences, I take a different approach when dealing with 7th/8th grade. Parents/Teacher conferences, focus on various themes that requires students to reflect however to look forward in the coming years.
    Themes:
    What makes a good leader, what qualities do we look for in a leader, what are their strengths that could make them a leader
    What is their resume going to look like in 4 years from now – applying for colleges, getting involved, clubs, athletics, groups( Musicals,Drama – stage crew). Try to instill the positives in each individual.
    Organization – discuss various techniques that they are familiar with to succeed in High School
    Character traits that represent themselves, getting students to interact and feel good about themselves.
    Stress the importance of doing well in High School, and not to give up

    Reply
    1. Caroline Spencer

      Leon, I like how you have an agenda that is so open, yet is so individualized per student. It is important to relate this process to future experiences. Think back to all job interviews, without fail you are asked to talk about your strengths and weaknesses- this is good practice.

      Reply

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