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By Jethro Jones | Friday, October 24, 2014

Teachers: Prep Tips for Parent-Teacher Conferences

Make parent-teacher conferences easier

It’s that time of year. The leaves are changing, the air is cooling—and that means parent-teacher conferences are right around the corner.

Regardless of what format your school uses, parent-teacher conferences can be difficult when you have a student who’s struggling in one way or another; they’re hard for both the parent and the teacher.

Here are some tips to make sure conferences go smoothly for both parties.

Communicate early and often

If a student is struggling, be sure you bring up the issues with the parents before your conference. Communicating early allows conferences to serve as a check-in, rather than a surprise ambush from you about their struggling child.

Even if conferences are coming up soon, and you don’t think you have time to chat with parents, it will still be worth it to at least make a brief connection before conferences.

No surprises

Wherever possible, let parents see report cards or progress reports before you meet with them. That gives them time to think about what their child is missing, ask questions of their child (and you), and brainstorm ways to help.

Send a personal invitation to parents

When you take the time to invite parents personally, they recognize that you care for their child and that you want him or her to be successful.

A personal invitation also conveys that you want to work together as a team for their child. Parents don’t always know how to help their student and an invitation invites them to come ask you questions.

Wait! Before you secondary teachers get on me for suggesting you send a personal invitation to all 220 (or more) of your students, I’m not suggesting they all get invitations. Send personal invitations to those who really need them—those who likely will not come otherwise.

Have a plan and resources for every student

In a perfect world, you would have much more time to meet with parents of students who are struggling, and they would be the first at your door to get help for their child.

But that’s not always the case. Sometimes the kids who need the most help are the ones whose parents never show up for conferences.

As teachers, though, that can’t matter to us. We need to have a plan for every single student, and resources tailored to that specific student’s needs. Whether or not parents come, you’re still going to do your best as the teacher to help that child be successful.

Talk critically about data, compassionately about student

Parents love their children and want them to be successful. You can help them maintain a positive outlook by talking critically about student data and using student-first language. Provide some hope for the parents that their child can make the necessary gains.

But be compassionate towards the students themselves. It will be tempting to spend most of your time with the parents talking about where their child needs help, but be sure to consider and communicate the positive aspects of that child, as well.

Learn more

If a student is really struggling, you may need to up your communication game. Watch these free videos from the lynda.com course Having Difficult Conversations to turn tricky conversations into successful interactions:

Effective communication
Four phases of successful conversations
Clarifying your goal

For more help in the classroom, check out our full range of 60 Teacher Tools courses on lynda.com.


By Todd Dewett | Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Know Your Phone Etiquette


You’re using your phone incorrectly.

No, I’m not talking about the way you allow it to distract you in your meetings.  I’m not even talking about your text addiction.

I’m talking about how to hold a conversation over the phone: You’re doing it wrong. You’re not communicating at your optimum level.

By Todd Dewett | Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Office Politics: Do You Have to Play?


Have you ever sworn that you would never engage in office politics? It’s hard to blame you. Politics is dirty, self-serving, and underhanded, right? Well—not really. Sometimes it can be, but that’s a comment about the nature of the leadership team, not politics.

In this week’s first tip, I show you why politics in and of itself is neither good nor bad. It’s like any form of communication; it depends on how you use it. Let’s be clear: You should be politically active. You can be ethical, kind, and virtuous, but you do need to learn to play politics.

By Judy Steiner-Williams | Saturday, July 05, 2014

Business Writing: Be Brief. Be Bright. Be Gone.


“Be brief. Be bright. Be gone.”

I once heard about a CEO who had a sign hanging on the wall behind his desk with those words printed on it. Intimidating? Maybe, but it sends a strong message: Business people are busy and don’t have time for long, dull conversations.

The message applies as much to written business communication as it does to office visits. Here are some pointers on how to achieve these “Be” statements in your writing—and capture your readers’ attention when you need it.

By Jess Stratton | Monday, May 05, 2014

Write an Email That Gets Results

Write an email that gets results

Last week on Monday Productivity Pointers, I showed you how to write an email that gets read. Now that you’ve got your readers’ attention, let’s talk more about the content of that email. In particular, this week we’ll examine strategies for writing an email asking someone to do something—or giving someone an action item.

An action item could be a physical task, or a request to provide information. Whatever it is, you’re not just informing them about it in your email. Asking for something that needs to get done takes a special type of communication.

By Jeff Toister | Thursday, March 27, 2014

The secret to maintaining a customer service attitude

Maintaining a customer service attitude

Customer service professionals are expected to have a positive and friendly attitude at all times—but maintaining such an attitude isn’t always easy. Upset customers, challenging problems, or even fatigue can make it hard to keep smiling.

Attitude anchors are techniques you can use to help position your customer service attitude in a positive place, or even to repair a bad attitude when you’re feeling down. There are two kinds of attitude anchors: maintenance anchors and repair anchors.

By Todd Dewett | Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Moving past workplace challenges: Management Tips

Getting past challenges in the workplace

Explore Management Tips at lynda.com.

What are your biggest challenges at work? Two common workplace challenges are working with people you don’t like, and knowing when and how to stop putting effort into projects that aren’t working—so you can instead focus your attention where it truly matters.

The first tip this week is about working with someone you don’t enjoy; this can drain your energy quickly unless you make a conscious choice to approach the situation constructively. Your don’t have to become buddies with unpleasant coworkers, but you can learn to recognize their positive traits instead of letting their negative ones get the best of you.

By Todd Dewett | Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Storytelling in the workplace: Management Tips

Storytelling in the office

Explore Management Tips at lynda.com.

This week we’ll dive into one of my favorite topics: storytelling. Using stories as a communication device can ensure that your message is understood and remembered. Why is that? Good stories inspire the listener, tap into emotions, and involve characters who are dealing with issues the listener truly cares about. When you capture your listeners’ emotions, they listen—and become truly engaged.

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