The best parent-teacher conference opener

22 Oct

“Hello, Ms. Gillespie,” my student’s father said, reaching out to shake my hand. “It is so nice to meet. And I noticed we have the same hair.”

It was true. The tall man from the Indian subcontinent and I had pretty much the same haircut. Because if its nature, my hair does best either very long or very short, so I have kept my hair short for many years and love it. Long hair is too much work.

I knew the dad meant his words kindly, so I smiled and said, “We do, but mine is a lot greyer than yours.”

He laughed and pointed at his head and said, “This is henna!”.

His wife slapped his arm and joined in the laughter. Their daughter, my student, looked mortified.

Few students came in to their conference smiling. I sometimes think that, for some students, parent-teacher conferences feel like some sort of cosmic collision of worlds. When I ask, many claim they have no idea what I am going to say, so I have a series of things I ask them during their conference:

Have you ever had a bad conference?

What’s been the best thing so far about 6th grade?

What’s been the best toughest thing so far about 6th grade?

Which math class are you in? Is it a good fit?

When do you do your homework? How much time do you spend on it?

Who do you eat lunch with?

I teach in a program for the gifted. Some students put a lot of pressure on themselves.  Some students have a lot of pressure put on them by their parents, especially when it comes to Math. These questions usually lead to most of the things I want to say to parents and mostly help put kids at ease.

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2 Responses to “The best parent-teacher conference opener”

  1. arjeha October 22, 2019 at 4:27 pm #

    I always found parent conferences to be enlightening. You can really get a good insight of the student from parent behavior and comments. We rarely had students sit in On these conferences.

  2. Lisa Corbett October 22, 2019 at 7:05 pm #

    I love that this one started with a shared joke. I’m sure the kid was embarrassed, but she’ll laugh about it when she’s a parent. I really like your questions. I always try to do student led conferences, but lots of parents don’t believe me so they don’t bring the child with them. The child always has important things to tell us!

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