I did a parent/teacher conference for a preschool class I taught. This was years ago, so I feel confident that it would be okay if I share this experience with you. All of the conferences went pretty well except for this one, and although the parent wasn’t rude; everything I said, was taken in the wrong way.
This particular student had only been in my class for about a month, so her portfolio and assessment form was incomplete. I explained this to the parents upon their arrival.
I never tell a parent that their child is not doing well in a particular subject unless I am sure about it. I would usually say that they didn’t demonstrate this particular skill to me, which simply means that they might know it, but I hadn’t seen it.
One of the parents took this the wrong way, and began naming off all of things that his child could do. The other parent tried to explain that “I didn’t say the child didn’t know it, I just said I hadn’t seen it demonstrated yet.”
I explained to the parent, that some students are slow to warm up, and it takes time for children to warm up to their teacher and start talking. This didn’t work; it was as though the parent didn’t hear me at all.
Finally I said; “As parents you teach your children about strangers, you tell them not to speak to them or go anywhere with them, but then you put them in a center with nothing but strangers. And you expect them to change years of warnings. Your child has to trust me. Only then will she feel comfortable and open enough to let me know what they know.
It worked, because the parent stopped with the list of what their child knew, by that time I had already closed the booklets for the conferences and begin chatting with the parents about how students learn.
I realized that this parent was determined to make everything I said out of something else, and I couldn’t be any clearer with my explanations, so I stopped.
I’m glad I had that experience, I learned something about myself, and the stranger scenario just came to me, I never used it before, but it worked.
My best advice is to know when it is necessary to stop a conference based on the parents’ reaction to what you are trying to say, and just talk to them and see where that leads.