10 Suggestions by a School Superintendent to Make a Successful Parent Meeting

Having successful and productive parent meetings can sometimes be a challenging event. In some instances, parents can be incredibly supportive and receptive to teacher and administrative feedback, but in other cases, these meetings can become very tense and at times, even unproductive. Although there could always be the possibility of these messy meetings, it should never discourage getting together with parents and other stakeholders to develop the best means of communication that can help support students.

Looking at all of the interests from an objective perspective can be one suggestion to help make a successful meeting. For example, the way a teacher sees a behavioral problem in the classroom could be very different from how the parent or guardian may view it as it relates to the child outside of school. Another issue that can create some challenges is that people communicate much differently than in previous generations. Since a majority of individuals now rely solely on text, email, or social media, the opportunities to learn how to conduct face-to-face meetings where people could disagree in a professional manner have become less and less. Lastly, some parents may have a skewed view of how their children are performing academically. A survey report called Parents 2017: Unleashing Their Power & Potential revealed some of these beliefs:

  1. Ninety percent of parents believe their children are performing at or above grade level.
  2. Sixty-seven percent believe their children are “above average” in school.
  3. Eighty-five percent say their children are on track for academic success.
  4. Only 8 percent say their children are performing below average.

Here are some strategies that I have found to be very useful.

  1. Lead with the good news and start the conversation off on a positive note.
  2. Ask questions about the student to see if there are more significant concerns.
  3. Be Very Specific and don’t generalize.
  4. Be a resource of resources and keep a list of information such as tutors, websites, and other applications.
  5. Explain your instructional or administrative decisions.
  6. Communicate often and try to send out information regularly.
  7. Ask for and encourage parent and student feedback.
  8. Update your grades regularly and make sure you have current information on the student.
  9. Try your best to create a warm and non-threatening tone for the meeting.
  10. Be prepared and know what the meeting is about and have the necessary information.

Despite all of the planning and preparation, there still could be situations where things go awry.
Here are some suggestions:

  1. Avoid labeling or judging people. It happens to the best of us.
  2. Step back before you respond. Sometimes people can say things that can provoke you. Know that you may encounter these times and be prepared not always to have a quick response.
  3. Stop wishing people were different. Hoping for people or parents to do a miraculous turn around could be futile and waste precious energy.
  4. Use a learning mindset approach and approach each interaction with an open mind and differentiate for parents as you would for your students.
  5. Acknowledge vs. argue -Our first reaction may be to argue and defend our case, but winning isn’t everything. Finding a place where everyone can agree is much more productive.
  6. Don’t be a difficult person yourself! It is easy to identify someone else being difficult but confusing to judge ourselves. Even the best of us could have a day where we are tired, frustrated, or just plain overworked.
Dr. James Pedersen

Dr. James Pedersen

Dr. James Pedersen is currently the Superintendent for the Essex County Schools of Technology which is an award-winning school district in New Jersey. His career in educations spans over twenty years and includes a variety of instructional and administrative positions. Dr. Pedersen is the author of several articles and two books focusing on education, Rise of the Millennial Parents (2013) and Summer versus School: The Possibilities of the Year-Round School (2015).