Informality Enhances Parent Meetings

Because I want families to be important members of their child’s educational team, I make opportunities throughout the school year for in-person conversations with each student’s parents or guardians. These “meetings” range from one-on-one conferences to quick exchanges with family members joining us for Morning Meeting, lunch, or a classroom event. I’ve found that a sense of warm informality encourages parents to visit and to comfortably share information about their children.

To begin establishing that warm, informal tone, I plan “get to know you” visits early in the year. With a brief letter (translated if necessary) or just a sticky note in the child’s homework folder, I invite parents to choose a convenient meeting time. Because most parents work, popular times are just before or after school, during lunch, or during our after-school program.

We sit together in a quiet conference room. I offer coffee, tea, and cookies, which enhances the sense of sociability—as does having all folders and notes out of sight to start. My goal is to listen more than I speak, so after a bit of general conversation, I ask how I can support the child’s learning and encourage parents to share insights about their child, family, and culture. Only then do I invite parents to notice specific things in their child’s work folder. At later meetings, I’ll share an earlier and a later piece of work so that parents have a concrete sense of their child’s progress.

For me, even the smallest tidbit of information gleaned from these meetings offers insight into how to help each child learn and feel comfortable in school. For example, I might learn that one child has few opportunities to read with the parent, or that another child’s close friend just moved away.

For parents, frequent, friendly, and informal conversations help them relax and feel that they’re talking with a team-mate—one who values their input and shares their goals for their child.

Radhika Rajgarhia teaches first graders at Braddock Elementary School in Annandale, Virginia.

Tags: Working with Families

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