In the past several years, I have changed my thinking and approach to preparing for conferences. Like many teachers, I often arrange student data and work samples with a goal of painting an academic picture of each child. With all of the preparation for conferences however, I felt as though I was missing the most important piece…input from the student!
I started changing my preparation by including the students in the process. Each student is expected to come to conferences so that as a team, we can discuss and make plans for their education. First, my students prepare by creating two goals and two affirmations for things they think they are doing well in school each day.
Goal Setting Process
As a class, we come up with samples of goal topics ranging from specific content, to learning behaviors. We then discuss that a goal is something that you feel you could strengthen; therefore, it wouldn’t be something that you already feel you can do well. Some students begin to think of things outside of the school day, such as scoring a goal in soccer. It is important to realize that eliciting the help from related arts teachers can be impactful when helping a student fulfill their personal goals. It might not seem like it, but goals related to social or athletic areas of development can directly influence their academics as well. When a student has strong self-esteem and a strong self-concept, they are more likely to approach academics positively.
Student Led Conferences
When the student and parents arrive for the conference, we always begin with the two affirmations that the student wrote down. I then ask their parents to give affirmations/ compliments for things they feel their child is doing well both at school and at home. This helps to begin the conference with a positive tone, and sets a standard for how topics will be handled during the conference. Since students are rarely invited to attend conferences, they aren’t sure what to expect. This always helps to ease their fears!
After the students share their affirmations, we then look to the student goals. As a team, we discuss the goals the student has set, and look for ways in which their parents and myself can support them toward achieving these goals prior to the spring conference. After the student shares their goals and an agreement on teamwork has been reached, I share my goals for the child that directly relates to student data and work samples. I then provide the parents with resources for them to support their child at home.
This can typically be completed in fifteen minutes, but there are times in which follow-up phone conversations are held with parents to touch base about progress made toward reaching the goals. Additionally, there are times in which conversations with parents occur prior to the conference so that the parents understand the concerns, and realize that the conference is a time to set an action plan to address those concerns with their child. In front of the child, we do not dwell on the negative issues, but instead look toward positive solutions.
Preparations for the fall conferences are well underway, and I’m looking forward to positive and proactive conversations to support student