Monday, February 12, 2018

10 Ways to Prepare for Parent-Teacher Night (Speech-Language Pathologist Style)

Parent-teacher night is on the horizon over at my school.  We always have one in the fall and then one again in the winter/spring.  It can be super nerve-wracking to have parents coming in and out of your office, so to try and make it a little less stressful for myself, I prepare in advance.

Here is what I do...

1. Send home a reminder to the parents of when parent-teacher night is and where they can find you.  Include on the note an RSVP slip, so that you have a heads up of which parents are going to try to come.  Obviously this doesn't mean there won't be a few surprises, but you'll at least have a little more insight into how the night will go.  It will also prevent any parents from wandering around the building, asking random people where to find Speech.

2. Place your student files/folders in alphabetical order for easy and quick access.  When a parent comes in who you don't recognize, just ask them their child's name and then pull out the folder.  Side note, be sure not to assume that this person shares the last name of the child or that it is their son/daughter.  Some people look a lot younger or older than they really are, and you don't want to call somebody the grandpa when they're actually the father.

3. Prep your folders.  Go through all of them carefully.  Here's what I think is best practice for inside:
  • student's most recent IEP goals
  • current mandate
  • date of their upcoming IEP
  • Any parent/guardian correspondences (print all emails)
  • Student sample work
  • Data/benchmarking/progress monitoring
  • Language Sample
4. A lot of parents say that they wish they had more communication with their child's SLP.  I suggest having little cards to hand out with your name, title, school phone number, and your school email address on them.  I usually just type it up and print out a bunch on card stock.

5. Make sure you have a sign-in sheet.  Administration may ask who came to speak with you, and instead of racking your brain, you'll be able to just make a copy of the sheet and hand it in.  Also, if you ever have a reason to need to confirm the amount of communication you had with a particular family, you will have documentation of the family coming to meet with you (or not coming).

6. Have a few toys within reach in case the parent brings the student with them or a sibling.  You don't want the child to take attention away from the sparse time you have directly speaking with a parent.  Prep something super engaging (think iPad) and make sure it's not an item they get so often that it isn't exciting for them.

7. Come up with a phrase, in advance, that you can use if a meeting is taking longer than it should, and you have a line of parents starting to accumulate.  I like to say "I've so enjoyed speaking with you.  It seems that I'm starting to gather a line, but would love to continue this conversation.  How about we set up an appointment time where we can speak in person or over the phone?"

8. Think about your most challenging student.  Maybe it's the one who screams, the one who bites, the one who spits, curses, or drops to the floor like dead weight.  Now think about their parent.  Who maybe has years of parent-teacher nights in their memory, where they have had to hear about all these behaviors they are all too familiar with.  These meetings are hardest on them.  Find something positive to say about every single student.  Anything.   Start the conversation with that thing, and then repeat it at the end of the conversation.  Here are a few ideas that may apply to your students:

  • Johnny is always smiling.
  • Mia has been making such nice eye contact lately.
  • I've noticed that Benji is more aware of the other students in his class recently.
  • Alysha turned towards me the other day when I called her name.
  • Transitions have been getting better.  Instead of needing full physical prompts, now Jackson only needs his hand to be held.
  • Nora kept her hearing aids in for five extra minutes last week.
  • Zach looks so handsome with his new haircut.
  • Everyone is always talking about how beautiful Kia is dressed every day.
  • Yu has been benefiting so much from visual cues, such as this picture of Hands Down.
  • Winter has been carrying her speech book while walking, without dropping it.

9.  Have pen and paper right near your desk, so that you can keep track of which parents request what from you. It might seem simple at first to remember that Tonya's mom wants a new PECS symbol for "homework," but after seeing 8 more parents, you'll probably forget that. A list will keep you organized and also hold you responsible for providing your students with what the need for success and carryover at home.

10.  Unnecessary, but nice, extra things to have prepped:
  • Snacks (goldfish, pretzel sticks, etc)
  • Mini water bottles
  • Small notebooks (like the kind you can buy ten in a pack from Party City)
  • Pens (to let the parents jot notes down in the notebooks)
  • Tissues (in case you have an emotional conversation)

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