Effective Meetings with Parents and Administrators
By Brendan McAloon
As a music educator, meetings are a guarantee. From informing a parent how well a student is performing to consulting with administrators about inventory requests, you will meet about any and everything. There are certain aspects about meeting with both parents and administrators that are applicable to both groups, like being specific, informative, and knowledgeable. However, remembering the differences between the two audiences and how to handle those differences can make or break your classroom.
Take note of the aspects that concern both parents and administrators:
- Be prepared: a lack of preparation will shine right through and concern those with whom you’re meeting
- Be concise: the more to the point you are, the better the flow and understand of the meeting
- Be logical: if you need a goal met in your classroom, explain the steps to accomplish it
- Be knowledgeable: know the details regarding your students, classroom, instruments, methods, etc.
- Be courteous: being polite is typically reciprocated and helps to make things go smoothly
- Be confident: you’re the expert here, let it show
All the advice above will help in terms of more streamlined aspects to a meeting. However, things can certainly get into the more nitty-gritty as there is certainly a difference between a parent and an administrator. For example, a parent may care only about how their student performs, and not necessarily the ensemble as a whole; whereas an administrator will care about the ensemble as a whole and not necessarily one particular student.
Chances are a parent’s number one priority is how their own student is performing. Because of this, you will want to establish a working relationship with each of your students to determine how they are progressing as students and musicians. It may not be perfect, especially with much larger ensembles, but understand as much as you can about your individual students. That way, when you meet with their parents, not only can you inform them of the student’s progress as a performer, but also show that you care about the development of their child’s music education as a whole.
Recommended items to prepare prior to a meeting with parent(s):
- Have a report about each student ready to present to their parent
- Mention the student’s strengths and where they excel in your classroom
- Consider mentioning constructive criticisms, how the student can improve
- Discuss why the student is an important part of the classroom and ensemble
A simple call home may even boost a parent’s confidence in their child. David Cutler, a high school history, government, and journalism teacher, states on Edutopia that he feels that parents “rarely receive a positive call home. Twice a semester, [he makes] a point to call and tell them how impressed [he is] with something their student did or said.” In doing so, Cutler feels he lets “parents know that [he cares] as much about recognizing success and improvement as [he does] about spotting struggle and weakness.”
Let the parent(s) get a word in about their child. They may be able to provide details about how much the student practices and where they excel at home that you may not have realized. By letting the parent give you these insights, you will understand your students better and how to help them grow as musicians.
Nicholas Provezano, a high school English teacher, wrote on Edutopia that parents “want to share some of their own stories about the child they have in your class, and those stories can be very important in understanding the student more deeply. Taking the time to really hear parents can help create a better school-to-home connection that can help later in the year if further contact is needed to address other issues.”
Working with Your Administration
Meeting with your administrators is just as important because they help you establish your classroom and provide the resources for your students. Your classroom, events, resources, and more can be due in large part to them. If you need new instruments, stands, chairs, or other items, you may need to meet with an administrator to request them.
Come prepared with specific needs and reasons for them. Do you need new instruments? Show why the old instruments need to go (out of tune, jammed keys, damage). Have an easy-to-read list. Name the item, the quantity, when you need it, from whom to order, prices, etc.
Education Oasis offers the following “Tips for Building a Relationship with Principals”:
- Ask for professional development opportunities;
- Seek assistance in setting up a mentor relationship if a program is not already in place;
- Request that a principal visit your classroom and give you constructive feedback prior to the formal evaluation period; and
- Request time to meet with your principal.
Additionally, on Edutopia, Ben Johnson, an administrator, author, and teacher, describes five ways to develop a partnership with your principal:
- Have a face-to-face meeting.
- Make your resource needs known.
- Write your needs down for the principal.
- Invite the principal into your classroom.
- Offer encouragement.
Effective meetings help you to assess and understand your students better, obtain the resources you need for them and your classroom, and be an effective music educator. Share your ideas for effective meetings with parents and administrators below.
Nicholas Provenzano, “Conference Time: Chatting with Parents,” Edutopia, 8 October 2014.
David Cutler, “8 Tips for Reaching Out to Parents,” Edutopia, 21 March 2014.
“Working with Principals: Advice for New Teachers,” Education Oasis, 2012.
Ben Johnson, “Five Ways to Develop a Partnership with Your Principal,” Edutopia, 21 September 2012.
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