Conferences provide a unique opportunity to speak with parents without any distractions. Here are some ideas for how to make the most of the time.
- Prep! This is a no-brainer. Of course you want to prepare for these conversations, but knowing how busy you are, it might be tempting to wing it. After all, you know each child in your program so well! Even so, take the time to organize your thoughts in advance. You want to make sure you're able to cover the most important things. If you wing it, you might leave something out.
- Identify points of celebration and opportunities for growth. Each child has things to be celebrated, as well as areas they are still growing. Ask yourself, "What do I want to celebrate in this child?" and also, "What are some things we are working on?"
- Think about structure. Frame the conversation as a feedback sandwich-- the positives are the bread and the challenges are the filling. Starting and ending with praise reassures the parents that you are on the same team.
- Ask about home. When discussing both the positives and the negatives ask if that matches what parents are seeing at home. Better understanding what is happening at home can give you new ideas for supporting at school, as well as allow you to recruit parents to support what you're doing at school in the home. It works both ways.
- Think about big milestones. Are there any big milestones a child has recently achieved? What are the upcoming milestones they're working towards? Being ready to talk about these things can be really helpful for parents to understand their child's progress on a continuum.
- Bring work samples or pictures. Showing evidence of a child at work can really ground the conversation. For example, a child's progression in their drawings shows concrete evidence of the development of so many skills all at once. Or the progression from parallel play to associative play as shown through photos is a nice way to showcase development.
- Use a developmental screening tool. One example is the Ages & Stages Questionnaire (ASQ). As a Wonderschool director you have access to this screening tool. The tool provides a productive structure to your conversation and shared language you can use to talk about child development.
- Allow for questions. Prepare your own talking points, but make sure to leave time for parents to ask questions.
- Remember: you're on the same team. Building and maintaining productive relationships with parents will always have its challenges. If you can always remember first and foremost that you have the same goals, you'll spare a lot of frustration in the short and long term. It can feel like we spend all of our patience on the kids, but the parents deserve some as well.