Yay!!!!!! For the first time EVER (in 4 years) I had 100% of my parents show up for parent-teacher conferences!! (including a couple phone conferences). Seriously, in the past, I felt good if I got more than half the parents to come to mid-year conferences. The fall conferences are usually closer to 70% attendance, but 100% is fairly unheard of in our district. I brought home my sign-in sheet and put it on the fridge, this is how proud I am. :-)
I'm fairly certain that two things helped make the difference. The first thing is the student-led conference format. We've been talking about conferences coming up for the last week or two and prepared folders of work they're proud of, work they're not so proud of, grades, self-evaluation, teacher evaluation, test results, and goals for the next quarter. They wrote letters persuading their parents to come, as well as practiced what they would do during conferences, since the kids have to be there as well. And, since they're student-led, it means that the parent and student come in, and the student immediately sits down with the parent and begins their conference. About 10 minutes later, I walk over and look over the goal paper that the student should have completed. (The students write 2 goals in class, and then during the conference the parent and student write a third goal together.) I make sure the goal is useful and offer any sage wisdom I can come up with to support that goal, ask if they have any questions (which they usually don't since the kids have gone through all of the information in their folders) and send them on their way! :-) My favorite thing is that it involves very little work on my part. One of my colleagues whom I love dearly said her agenda for each conference was as follows: 1) Academic talk, 2) Behavior talk, 3) Make them cry, 4) Happy cry, 5) Go home. I don't have the energy for that kind of intensity. She's a redhead though, she can take it.
And the other thing that helped make conferences successful for me was the brownies (see previous posts). The kids had so much fun making the brownies and were so proud of them, they really WANTED their parents to come to conference (another first). It was so cute watching them point out to their parents which ones they made, and what they did to make them. (The pictures I displayed on the TV of the kids baking brought lots of smiles, too :-)) I had several parents who didn't show up at first, so I called them, and at least twice, the parents said that their child was very upset with them for not getting to their conference on time, after all the work they had gone to. Those parents were very relieved to hear that they could come at a different time. :-)
So all in all, conferences went really well this time around. Actually, I usually enjoy conferences (except for the fact that I have to work two 12 hour days in a row) because I get to talk to adults and have rational conversations and see kids actually look repentant for once. Like I said, it can be nice, it's just very draining. This time, I didn't feel stressed at all. I was mainly making sure little brothers and sisters didn't tear the place apart, or eat 14 brownies, and the like. :-) So, maybe I'm developing one small area of expertise in this crazy job of teaching :-) Yay!