Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Student-Led, Parent-Teacher Conferences

This is my first year doing exclusively student-led teacher conferences.  99% of students were forthright.  Parents are more receptive to hearing the truth when their child is the one saying it.  Some of the admissions I heard were: "I insult people," "I talk too much" and "I'm doing well because I've been a star scholar three times."  It was awesome.  Below are the steps I used during these student-led conferences.

Step one:  Greet the parent and student warmly; welcome them into your classroom. Step two: So-and-so, talk to us about how you're doing in ELA class. Or if scaffolding is necessary, how are you doing in ELA academically and in terms of your conduct, how you behave in class?  If student says one or two words, I ask for evidence, or a detail to support their claim (perfect way to once again practice using evidence). Step three: affirm in most cases what student said and connect to the grade received. Step four: if it hasn't been covered,  mention how student has improved, what she needs to improve upon and steps to take to get there. Step five: elicit from student, what she will do to improve or maintain grade. Final step: thank parent and student for coming.  

Now that I teach general education students and special education students in an inclusion setting, I have excellent parent turnout for conferences. In my past experiences teaching self-contained classes, I often got maybe six parents total during both afternoon and evening conferences.  This year, I got about sixty parents, or just over two-thirds of the students I teach.  As you can imagine, the time goes very fast because everyone comes to speak to the ELA teacher and to see how their newly-minted middle schooler is doing. 

To prepare for parent-teacher conferences, I do the following: One, make sure portfolios are in order and accessible for parents. Two, tidy up the classroom and make sure student work inside and out is current. Three, prepare for each student a positive comment, an area of growth, and how to improve their grade. Of course this was a lot easier with 24 student instead of 90, but just as necessary. It's important for a teacher to be and feel prepared; this is something that helps me feel prepared.  Four, have a notebook or paper ready to take notes quickly, as well as a print out of your grades. Five, make sure you're dressed well. Half of the battle preparation is presentation. Look ready, be ready. 

On that note, time for work. I'm heading in early to work on some of the things I said I would do for parents-- from compiling list of book suggestions for a Christmas Kindle gift, to sharing the list of upcoming class novels for the year as well as supplementary reading on the same topics, and updating our online grade book/parent communication tool with additional emails and phone numbers. Yup, a teacher's work seems never-ending. 

Until next time,
Miss M

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