We have a very tight conference schedule and I want to honor parents' time (and my own!) by sticking to the sign-up times. It's easy to get off track and off topic, but I need to remind myself during those types of conversations that it will be a domino effect that will keep me at school later and later, possibly having to reschedule other parents if they have been waiting too long.
Here are a few tricks I use to ensure that we stay on time:
>>>Use a Timer: This has been a great way for me to self-monitor during a conference. We have back-to-back 20-minute time slots, so I use a timer to make sure I am staying within that time frame.
I take conference notes on a Google Doc, so I open a different tab on my browser and set it when we get started with the sound off. I find that using a timer avoids the need to look at a clock or look at my watch, which are all very not-so-subtle body language messages that you probably don't want to be sending to your parents.
If you Google "timer," they have their own that pops up and you can easily turn off the sound.
>>>Set an Agenda: .... and stick to it! I always lay out how the 20 minutes will be split up, either breaking it up by academic subject, the student work or data I need to go through, goals from the student and from parents, etc. I want parents to know what the next 15-20 minutes will entail, so they can be a part of it and I'm not the only one talking the whole time.
I also have to remember, that while I go through 25-ish of these every conference season, they only have it once, so I want them to be as involved and invested as possible. Many times, I will even allude to what we'll cover in our class' weekly newsletter the Friday before, so they can send me any questions in advance and we can all be on the same page.
>>>Have Other Parents Help: Even with these two steps, life happens and conferences run over. I do like to remind parents that we need to start and end on time, but when it comes to talking about their child, 20 minutes can be so short!
I put this sign on the door to have the next parent help in keeping us on track. Because my door is closed, they will simply knock at the start of their session. This is a nice reminder that we need to wrap up since someone else's conference is starting now.
I have this available for free in Google Docs HERE if you would like to print and laminate for your class door. I will sometimes post a schedule by the door on very busy nights so parents know that the evening is full and time is of the essence.
Parent-Teacher Conferences are definitely a wonderful (yet sometimes stressful!) part of being a teacher, so keeping your sanity through them all is so important. I hope these tips help you to keep better track of time in order to have the most successful meetings yet!