Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Welcome to Conferences

I am one of those teachers that usually walks towards conferences dreading the conversation with parents because of the fear that one of them will go off on me about some aspect of my classroom, teaching, something random I said (I say a lot of random things not realizing what I say until I see it on a scribe post- i.e. I would kick kids in their shins if they didn't complete an assignment). However, usually, I walk away from conferences feeling appreciated by the parents as well as having learned more about my students. One aspect of conferences that we have been trying to change here at AHS is to steer the focus away from grades per say and focus more on the student specifically. In fact I recall a teacher who will go nameless saying he wished to put up a sign at conferences that would say, "If you want to talk to me about your child's grade, check Infinite Campus; if you want to talk about your child, see me." This is the direction I am hoping to go with conferences this year. I asked my students today (I wish I would have done this on Monday) to reflect on the following questions in a typed paper:

Assess your learning in class so far this semester. Look at participation, growth in writing, comprehension, etc…

Where do you want to be at the end of the semester?

How are you going to get there?

What help can I provide to achieve your goal?

Write a message to your parents.

I let them know before I gave them these questions my purpose behind doing conferences differently was that I know grades are important to them and to their parents, but what my greater concern is about is their learning. That is what I wanted to focus on with their parents at conferences rather than just talking about their grade. Now I know some of you are thinking that their grade should be a true reflection of their learning, and I agree that it is in part, but I an still one of those teachers who holds my students accountable for turning in work on time. Because of this, I think their grade measures part of their learning but not all of their learning. I actually think that grades can't fully capture a student's understanding because there are too many other factors to consider, but that is another conversation entirely.

After my students responded to the questions, they were asked to print out a copy to take home to their parents. The had a couple of options with what to do once they gave the note to their parents. One option is to let their parents know that we will be talking about this at conferences and not to talk about it till then or option two is to talk right then and there discussing their learning with their parents. Either way their parents are to bring the copy to conferences. Also, my students were to put a copy in our class drop box for me to access at conference to discuss.

I am anxious to see how this all turns out.


trishia said...

I love this idea! So many parents quit having conversations about school with their kids as the kids age. This should not only make your conferences more meaningful and helpful- but it should open a line of communication between some of your students and their parents. Be sure to post how things go.

Louisebparents said...
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Emily H. said...

I think this idea of not focusing on the "grade" is much more effective and practical. It is much more important to see what the student is progressing in, and what they are learning, as opposed to how they can get a better grade in the class. Kind of along the same lines as our final project!