Friday, November 1, 2013

The Power of Student-Led Parent/Teacher Conferences

The passage from childhood to adulthood is a road of dependence to autonomy. To gain independence, a transfer of responsibility must take place, from adult to child, and this impacts all areas of life from exploration of the world to learning about it and our place in it. Yet, for many young people, this shift happens all too suddenly instead of in increments. As teachers of tweens and teens, we have a responsibility to aid in this transfer, to intentionally teach agency and provide the opportunities for such ownership. One way educators can help accomplish this is through student-led conferences which help us achieve a new level of independence as well as a few other key conference tasks. They allow us to...

Break it Down: Bringing a child and parent together provides us with a chance to remove a tough barrier that often exists, even in the best of households, so that young people can communicate with their parents about their learning. In turn, parents can listen and offer advice to show support for their child and present a partnership mindset with the teacher.

Illuminate: In a student-led conference, we have the chance to shine a light on a quality which a parent may not have seen or may not have realized others see in their the presence of the child who feels proud and bright in the moment. The thought which goes through a child’s mind when he or she hears a teacher say something positive in front of a parent is invaluable. This begins an open, growth oriented conversation when listening to constructive feedback. The path forward to growth is thereby similarly illuminated for all to journey together.

Build it Up: Having all constituents present at a conference means being able to give constructive feedback in a setting where more people are working together to construct. Think about the manpower we then have to build something significant, like a growth plan, like confidence, like trust!

Preparing for successful student-led conferences is an essential step. Using a tool like this Student Conference Form, students can reflect on their learning and prepare for a discussion with their teachers and parents. From what we have seen at our school, and from what I have personally experienced as a parent, this simple invitation to the conference table can be truly transformative for a middle or high school student during the key transition years of adolescence.  

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