A simple tool that may just bring your parent-teacher interviews to the next level: The Personalized Strategy for Academic Success
Parent-teacher interviews: An exercise in efficiency
Parent-Teacher interviews generally take place within an extremely short time frame: something between ten to fifteen minutes for each interview. Invariably, the parents travel from teacher to teacher with a notepad in hand, and then sit down prepared to frantically write down the various observations and suggestions that are either offered by the teacher or that develop out of the conversation. It occurred to me a number of years ago that I could create a check list that would cover the majority of suggestions that I tend to make within the context of parent-teacher interviews, and this could save the parents from having to write down my suggestions. I could then just review the list ahead of time, checking off the suggestions that would apply to a given student.
The Personalized Strategy for Academic Success is born
What started out as a simple list of suggestions has evolved over the years, and, for almost two decades now, I've used this simple tool in every single parent interview. I call it the Personalized Strategy for Academic Success (PSAS), and it has done wonders for making parent-teacher conferences more productive and more efficient. The various suggestions that I initially developed have expanded and are now grouped into categories according to who would act on the suggestions: the student, the parents, or the teacher. I've added a space for diagramming directions to various online resources, and I've even added basic contact information. The document itself is tiny and unassuming. It's folded into a three-panel brochure: each panel either outlining categories of strategies, web directions, generic reminders about online resources, or contact information.
Tips for using the PSAS tool:
What's the difference?
As I've said, I've used the PSAS tool to guide my parent-teacher interviews for almost two decades now, and, truth be told, I wouldn't go into an interview without one. Using the PSAS has accomplished four great things for both the parents and for me:
i) It has given me a tool that I can use to contemplate and prepare for each scheduled interview.
ii) It has provided a tool that I can quickly use in order to facilitate spontaneous interviews.
iii) It saves the parents and me the time it would otherwise take for the parents to write down the typical suggestions, instructions, and directions that come about as a result of an interview. (This is especially useful in the digital age when we so often find ourselves describing the steps required to locate or log in to various online resources.)
iv) It clearly illustrates to the parents that a plan - an actual plan - has been considered and developed for their child.
Over the years, the parents I've met in interviews have made it abundantly clear how much they appreciate having a plan for academic success developed for their child. To be sure, these same parents regularly take the opportunity to make the observation that parent-teacher interviews often focus on identifying problems as opposed to exploring solutions, and they express their gratitude for being given the opportunity to participate in a solutions-based interview.
Without a doubt, many, many teachers have developed other wonderful solutions-based interview styles, and it's well worth our while as professionals to seek out and learn more about these other interview approaches. I'll just point out that a nice benefit to the PSAS approach resides in the fact that it clearly declares at the outset of the interview - to all the parties involved - that the focus of the interview will be on exploring strategies to help the student reach his academic goals. Moreover, the PSAS provides a tool that even the busiest teachers can utilize within highly restrictive time constraints.
If this tool sounds like something you might be interested in exploring, you can download a generic Personalized Strategy for Academic Success below. Feel free to use it as it is, or to modify the content within a new document to suit your needs.
Consider giving the PSAS approach a try for your next round of parent interviews, and let me know how it goes. Better yet, share your approaches, ideas, and suggestions by leaving a note below.
Do you have an iPad? Try converting the paper form of the PSAS into a digital form. (See psas for iPad example below.) I tried this recently and it worked tremendously well. The digital version can contain live hyperlinks to references and resources, and it can be emailed out to the parent right there from the interview table. Better yet, it eliminates the need for photocopying and paper-folding ahead of interviews... and that's great for both the environment and your time!
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