Teacher Chat! (Rachel, 6th Grade Teacher)

Note: I was blessed to be able to teach 6th grade with Rachel. She always had great ideas and such a fun energy that made her a successful teacher!

What grade(s) do you teach/have you taught?

10 years of teaching 6th grade!

What’s one thing you do to prepare for/get through parent-teacher conferences?

I make sure I am prepared and organized. I have a folder for each student with their report card, a progress report that shows all of the assignments, test scores, and often a note with upcoming important dates. It’s good to have water close by since I do a lot of talking. Mentally, I remind myself that both I and the parents want what is best for the student, so we need to work to be a team.

What’s one of your favorite end-of-the-year activities to do with your class?

Kindergarten Day. We have one day where we do a lot of kindergarten-type activities (play doh, coloring, calendar, story time, centers, etc). Anything that involves writing or coloring is to be done with their non-dominant hand. I teach small groups how to use a combination lock in one of the centers so they will be able to (hopefully) open their lockers once they hit middle school in a few months.

What’s one thing you do to encourage good behavior in your class?

I have my students help create a list of desired rewards, then print them in a series of boxes, and cover them with scratch-off stickers (found on Amazon). If there is a certain behavior I’m trying to encourage (working quietly, turning in assignments, etc.), each time they do what is desired I give my students a letter to spell a word, or an initial in a set of boxes on the board that they have to complete to earn a reward. When they finish the word or fill the boxes, then I draw a name for who gets to scratch off one of the stickers to see what reward they get.

Tell us about one thing you wish you’d known when you first started teaching.

Do not grade every single little thing that is turned in. So much of it is practice, and it doesn’t need more than a glance and a mark that it was completed. I made myself crazy spending countless hours grading stuff that wasn’t necessary.


What gets you through a hard day?

A chat with someone who gets it, and sometimes a good hug. Teaching is hard, and it often seems to be getting harder with each younger group of kids. I just try to remember that I am doing my very best, I’m human, and if there is one kid (or parent) that is really hard to handle, I only have to deal with them for one school year.

Teacher Chat!

Teacher Chat - TealI’ve decided to start learning more from other teachers around me. I’m eager to start conversations with other teachers to learn from them. I’ll be sharing what I learn in a series called “Teacher Chat!”

Chat with Diane from the USA

What grade(s) do you teach/have you taught? 2nd & 3rd

What’s one thing you do to prepare for/get through parent-teacher conferences?

I have students write a fill-in-the-blank letter to their parents telling what they like about school, their hardest and easiest subjects, their friends. At the conference, that letter is the first item in their folders. I have the student read it to their parents which gives us a great starting point for talking about reading, or whatever their strengths and weaknesses that they wrote about.

What’s one of your favorite end-of-the-year activities to do with your class?

I love to give each student an award. (There is a great list on squareheadteachers.com.) This is the last thing we do before they leave on the last day. We put the chairs in a big circle and then I pass them out, telling a little about what the student did to earn the award. We let each person determine which cheer they want us to give them for their award. It’s a super positive way to end the year.

 What’s one thing you do to encourage good behavior in your class?

Tired of tattling, I made a “Caught InThe Act Doing Something Good” spiral notebook. When kids notice someone doing something good, they write it in the notebook. I read it once a week, kids loved it!

Tell us about one thing you wish you’d known when you first started teaching.

I will never be “caught up” or “finished” with the things I want to do for my class. So, don’t stress, do what you can, then go home and have an enjoyable life outside of teaching.

 What gets you through a hard day?

On hard days, I like to remember the small things that I am making a difference on with individual kids – especially the tough ones.

Student Self-Evaluation for Parent Teacher Conferences

Self Evaluation Preview

Parent teacher conferences are stressful. There are so many things that teachers want to show parents that  it’s hard to remember everything! Hand each of your students one of these pages and let them tell their parents about how they’ve done! One less thing for you to do! Also, I’ve found that giving students a self-reflection page before handing out grades, helps kids be less surprised by their grades.

Get the free PDF from my recent post over at We Are Teachers!

Student Forms to Give to Parents at Parent-Teacher Conferences

Parent Teacher Conferences -student forms- sticker

It’s always nice to have the student contribute to parent teacher conferences, and have them review their progress and behavior before you sit down with their parents. So I present to you two versions of my “How I Feel About School” student form. Click here for the free printable PDFs:

Parent -Teacher Conference form – lower grades (revised)

Parent Teacher Conferences- student form (upper grades)

Click here to read 25 tips to surviving parent teacher conferences!

25 Parent-Teacher Conference Tips for New Teachers

Parent Teacher Conferences TIPS- stickerParent teacher conferences (PTC) can be intimidating for new teachers. Here are 25 tips to help you survive PTC (and get the most out of it!):

Before PTC:

  • In the weeks prior to PTC Collect samples of student work, record impressions of student progress and behavior.
  • Plan how students will be involved in the conference. If students are presenting work or progress, give them a chance to look over materials and prepare.
  • Contact parents (note, email, etc.) telling them you’re looking forward to meeting them to discuss their child’s progress.
  • Come up with a system for parents to easily schedule a time to see you. (Some schools run their PTC differently, so check with your principal if you’re unsure.)
  • A day before PTC, remind parents about the conference!
  • For parents who are unable to physically attend, arrange for a make-up conference. For tech-savvy parents, consider scheduling a virtual face-to-face meeting using Skype or FaceTime.
  • Brainstorm questions parents might ask and plan your answers. Think about ways parents support their child’s learning outside the classroom. Create a list of educational resources (websites and apps, special programs, books, etc.), then highlight specific ones that are a good fit for each student.
  • If there’s a specific conference you’d like another staff member (your principal, special education teacher, school psychologist, translator, etc.) to be a part of, let them know ahead of time.
  • Look ahead in your schedule for times when you can meet/talk with parents who need additional time with you. Be prepared to suggest these times if a conference goes over time.
  • Bring a notebook or something to write down a post-PTC to-do list (things you’ll need to check on, things to implement with specific students, etc.)
  • Pack snacks for conference days! Bring plenty of water and a non-messy snack to help give you energy. PTC can go fast, but you’ve got a whole class to do, so be prepared!

During PTC:

  • Start and end on time. It shows respect for everyone and will help make sure you’re not there until crazy late.
  • Share a quick agenda at the start of each conference so parents know what you will cover and what the general timing of the conference.
  • Listen to parents! They usually know their kid really well and may have some valuable insight for you!
  • Ask parents how they feel the school year is going and how they feel their child is doing.
  • Be positive. Share several specific examples of the child’s strengths, successful performance on projects and behavior.
  • Share true concerns. Choose one or two opportunities for improvement ties to age appropriate skills and standards. Seek feedback from the parent (and student, if present) to form a plan.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions! “Is there anything you think I should know that would help me serve your child better?”
  • Without being nosy, ask parents to keep you informed about home/family situations can affect their child’s learning and school work (e.g. family illness, divorce, job loss).
  • Invite parents to participate! Parents are a great resource with a wide range of experiences and skills. When parents participate in their child’s education, it shows their children that they value education (which helps lead to student success).  Plan ways for parents to participate both at school and from home.
  • Keep a count-down timer handy with a gentle alert 5 or 3 minutes prior to the conference end time.
  • Suggest a time to continue the conference if you start to go over time. Politely assure parents that you are very interested in discussing the issue further, but that you need to meet with the next family.
  • Thank parents for attending and be genuine about it. Without their support, students in their class would have a really tough time succeeding!
    Give parents a small sheet with your contact information on it (and any other important resources, like school website, class blog, etc.). This will ensure continued communication.

After PTC:

  • Follow through on any action items you discussed with parents (check your to-do list). Let them know the outcome.
  • Tell your principal or administrator any concerns you have regarding the conference.
  • (Bonus tip: BREATHE! and congratulate yourself and your fellow teachers for surviving! Take yourself out to dinner or take a warm bubble bath. You deserve it!)

For administrator looking to give their faculty some tips and ideas, here’s a great 8 page printable packet from the Harvard Family Research Project or a 3 page printable packet from Washoe County School District (NV).