Making Family Conferences Successful

Conferences are a time for school communities and families to connect and share important information regarding the details of the daily learning lives of students.  One foundational need in order to support this partnership is making sure that both teachers and parents have an opportunity to not only access the information shared, but also to be able to ask questions to provide clarity. If a family speaks a language other than English, it is important that we ensure that the educational rights of students are carried out through the use of an interpreter to create a bridge between home and school.

Whether you have worked with an interpreter many times or the next round of conferences will be your first opportunity, it is important to understand the roles and responsibilities between teacher, parent and interpreter prior to beginning a conversation.  We have created a chart highlighting some of the roles and responsibilities that are important to remember. Below you will see some of the big ideas from the list.  To see a complete list of ideas for how roles in partnerships during conferences could look, please click here.

If you are a teacher, it is important to remember:

  • The teacher is in charge of the conference.
    • Educators will typically arrive at a conference with information regarding academic performance of students and a list of agenda items to cover. Although these items are important, sometimes more pressing issues may arise as conversations with parents occur. Providing flexibility on what is covered during a conference is important and also allows for parent voice and a more meaningful, relevant discussion for families.
  • Speak directly to the parent and presume positive intentions.
  • Use short simple sentences and allow time for the interpreter to share.
    • Many phrases and sayings do not have literal translations. Stay away from figurative language and teacher jargon.
  • After every idea, stop and allow for a parent to respond.
    • Instead of asking, “Do you have any questions?” say “What do you think about this?” You will have a better chance of eliciting a response from parents and keeping the conversation meaningful and relevant.

If you are an interpreter, it is important to remember:

  • Communicate exact ideas intended for both parents and teachers.
  • Each assignment will  be confidential and approached with impartiality, putting all personal opinions aside.

If you are a parent, it is important to remember:

  • Be present at the conference and advocate for your child through questioning and clarifying content of the conference to the extent comfortable.
  • Learn about the role of parents in education in the US schooling system.

Our hope is that these ideas will create a stronger partnership between learning communities and families.


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Molly Williams

About Molly Williams

Molly Williams works for Lincoln Public Schools as an ELL instructional coach. She currently partners with teaching and learning communities at Hartley, Meadow Lane, Belmont, Elliott, Pyrtle, Kahoa, Huntington, Riley, Norwood Park, Morley, Pershing, Eastridge, Prescott and Randolph Elementary Schools.

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