Two Steps to Better Parent-Teacher Meetings

Use parent-teacher conferences as an opportunity for collaboration.

Posted Apr 15, 2018

Conflict 180
Source: Conflict 180

Whether you are a teacher, a parent, or both, parent-teacher conferences do not have to be stressful. Instead, they can be an opportunity for everyone to get on the same page about how to best support our children.

This is because, underneath all the facts, figures, and rubrics, we care about the same fundamental things.

We want to support kids in values such as:

  • Taking responsibility for their work
  • Persevering when things are tough
  • Being kind and caring

We want to have adults in the kids' live who can:

  • Help and guide them
  • Be flexible and understanding 
  • Be fair and respectful 

The other thing we share as a "team" of adults are underlying feelings, such as worry, fear, concern, hope, confusion, and gratitude

These fundamental shared values and feelings can create a connecting language for us during parent-teacher meetings. 

Conflict 180
Source: Conflict 180

So, What Are the Two Steps to Improve Parent-Teacher Meetings?

1. Speak in values. 

When you speak, tell the other adult what is important to you underneath, rather than focusing on your judgments of them or their actions. 

2. Listen for values.

When they speak, say back to them the shared values and feelings you hear — even if they are speaking in judgments. This gives them the sense of being heard at a deeper, connecting level.

Conflict 180
Source: Conflict 180

Example 1: Speaking in Judgements Versus Shared Values 

Teacher Speaking in Judgments: The main issue is that John is talking too much (judgment). He is a bright kid (judgment), but he needs to stop (judgment). I have talked to him several times, and he's continuing (observation). It's actually disrespectful to me (judgment) and the whole class (judgment).

Teacher Speaking in Shared Values: I'm worried about John (feeling), because he is a bright young man (judgment), and his talking is getting in the way of his learning (shared value) and other people's learning (shared value). I want him to be able to express himself (shared value), but I also want him to know when it is time to settle down and work (shared value). Do you know what I mean (inviting parent as ally)? 

Conflict 180
Source: Conflict 180

Example 2: Listening for Judgments Versus Shared Values

Parent Listening for Judgments: I think you are being too harsh on John. I know other boys in that class are always talking too, but they don't get in trouble (hearing judgment of John and responding defensively).

Parent Listening for Shared Values: So you are worried about John talking, because you want him to be able to succeed in your class? And for all the other students to be able to learn? (This shows the parent hearing the judgment, but then looking one level deeper to see what shared values are also there — and then saying which shared values they heard out loud.)

You only have a few minutes. If you can connect quickly on shared values, you can be more creative in finding an action plan that works — and that will feel more like a win-win.

Need a Cheat Sheet?

Many people tell me this sounds intriguing, but they could use a little help with listening for feelings and values. This way of communicating is based on Marshall Rosenberg's nonviolent communication (NVC). 

This handout lists common feelings and values (called needs there) on one page. More thorough lists are available at