6 Simple Ways to Advocate for Your Program at Conferences

Parent-teacher conferences can be stressful. Teachers are fighting deadlines, trying to prepare grades, getting ready for art shows, and more. Fitting in long days and evenings spent at school isn’t always ideal. At the elementary level, I didn’t have many families stop by. However, teaching at the secondary level has been entirely different. I usually end up with a line of families throughout the night, and by the end of the evening, I’m just thankful to stop talking!

Although parent-teacher conferences can be stressful, it is an excellent opportunity to showcase your art program.

Here are 6 ways to advocate for your program at conferences.

1. Have Project Examples on Hand

Whether you have conferences in your room or a communal area, it’s nice to have a display of current projects. This way when you’re talking to families, you can show them what their students are creating. It is a visual way to show the objectives and skills students are working on.

student art projects

If your students keep digital portfolios in the art room, you can also use conferences as a time to show student improvement. Since everything is on the computer, it usually only takes a few seconds to pull up the student’s work to share. Often it’s exciting because sometimes parents don’t know what’s going on in the classroom.

2. Let Your Students Share

If your students are attending conferences with their parents, don’t be afraid to let them talk. Instead of you describing what’s going on in the art room, have the student explain. Doing this will show families how excited the student is about your class, and it gives the student the opportunity to show off what they are learning. At that moment, they are the expert, and when families see their child excited about what they’re doing, it will speak volumes for your program.

3. Set Up a Fundraiser

Parents love school-themed items. Your art classes can create items to sell and have the proceeds go directly to the art program. Students can create school-themed clay ornaments with your school logo, postcards, notes, or decals. Make sure the items you are selling are worthwhile and in demand for a higher chance of earning extra budget money.

clay pendants with logo

4. Create a Wish List for the Art Room

Conferences are an excellent way to get a few items from your art room wish list. Sometimes families just don’t know what you need, and even if one family donates an item it can make a world of difference! Consider having a handout for families to take with them. On it, you can include recyclable items and art supplies you need. You’ll be surprised how many students will start to bring you items from that list!

5. Fill the Hallways with Artwork

Nothing says advocacy more than the school hallways filled with student artwork. If you can, make sure each student has a piece hanging up somewhere in the school. This way when families come to your table, you can celebrate the fantastic work created by their child, and together they can find the artwork.

hallway display

While they’re looking, they will inevitably see how you are instilling creativity in students. Another great place to exhibit artwork is near the book fair area. Since students often flock to this area, people are sure to see the artwork. You may also want to consider having written statements about the projects, or better yet, artist statements from students posted with the work.

6. Provide a List of Arts-Related Community Activities

For those students who exhibit a love for the arts, some parents want to know what other opportunities are out there. You’ve probably been approached by families asking if you could give private art lessons. Most of the time this isn’t a reality for you. However, this is an opportunity to advocate for the local art programs in your community. If families inquire, it’s nice to have a list of events and programs you can give them. You might want to include organizations that teach private lessons, museum education opportunities, and community exhibitions.

Although most of us don’t look forward to conference time, it is essential to make the most of it. These six simple ideas can help showcase your program and why the arts matter!

How do you use parent-teacher conferences to advocate for your program?

What other tips would you add to this list?

Abby Schukei

Abby is a middle school art teacher in Omaha, NE. She focuses on creating meaningful experiences for her students through technology integration, innovation, and creativity.

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