Tag Archives: crucial conversations

Handle parent-teacher crucial conversations effectively

In my years as a school counselor, I coordinated and lead a lot of parent-teacher conferences.  Lucky for me, I worked in a school with an amazing dedicated team of teachers who came to those conferences prepared and eager to serve.  It’s an important mindset to cultivate.  However, I also talk with parents and teachers who encounter a very different environment.  Typical problems include an unwillingness to listen, a need to be right or prove a point and a lack of sensitivity to the intentions and efforts of others.  How can you best ensure that a conference starts on the right track, ends with an action plan for moving forward and doesn’t get derailed in between?

Here are some tips to create a positive environment during crucial conversations:

  • Begin by clarifying what you really want to accomplish in the meeting. Are you sharing information and bringing someone up to date?  Do you want to make a decision about services or placement?  Are you creating a behavior plan or academic plan for moving forward?  Make sure everyone is prepared for the goal and on the same page.  Being blindsided as to the real purpose of a meeting creates tension.
  • Ask yourself how you need to act to accomplish your goal?  Calm and focused? Confident and prepared with the facts?  Sensitive and empathetic?  Take some time to create a positive mindset beforehand.
  • Avoid the extreme choices of:
    • Maintaining peace and harmony at all costs by withdrawing, not speaking up or not identifying what you think is the best goal and why.
    • Being more concerned about making a point than making a difference.  Being determined to win and express your opinion at any cost.
  • Instead of looking for differences and either/or decisions, look for common ground and make decisions that incorporate everyone’s concerns.  Anticipate and encourage cooperation and investment in a positive outcome on everyone’s part.

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