conference 2

If You’re a Parent and…Your School Starts Student-Led Conferences

Posted by on April 7, 2016.

Recently, I saw a Facebook post on habits of productive people. I have a love-hate relationship with those lists, but this time I paused, because some of the highlighted habits were reinforced for my daughter at her second-grade student-led conference.

Obviously, she is not worried about a strategy for sorting her email or for achieving a balanced life, but I thought the lessons taught in these conferences set the stage for managing aspects of her adult life.

Our school piloted student-led conferences last year and every class, kindergarten to fourth grade, participated in them in March. When we arrived for our conference, the three of us sat at a table while the teacher bounced between multiple families in the room. Our daughter, nicely prepared for the meeting, took out the paper clipped stacks from her yellow folder and talked through each subject-area assessment. The teacher checked in and added something to each discussion.

Here is how I thought it tied to these bigger work place lessons as outlined in the Huffington Post list of 12 Habits of Productive People:

  1. There was a system. Each child had the same folder and presented the same assessment work that her report card reflected. She could explain why she received each mark and how to improve (school mailed her report card after the conference).
  2. The focus was not on perfectionism or productivity, it was on where do you shine, where do you need to improve, and how can we, your parents, help you at home in both areas.
  3. She took responsibility. Student-led conferences appeal to schools and teachers, because students have the opportunity to reflect on their work and then take ownership of their achievement. The prep work with her teacher and then the conversation with us also made her more personally accountable for reaching her goals for the last term.
  4. The process made her excited. Again the preparation done by the teacher and the school set her up to succeed in this new process. The school leaders also valiantly tried to prepare parents by sending home a list of potential questions to ask and an overview of what to expect. They minimized anxiety and channeled energy into finding areas to celebrate.
  5. I thought I would miss the chance to talk with her teacher about her as a person. However, each student did a self-assessment of their “Personal Development” and reviewed it with the teacher. Performance reviews would be so much easier if I had been participating in self-reflection since kindergarten!

I certainly have seen Facebook lists about the weaknesses of schools and the public education system, but, as a parent and as a CLiF liaison to school-based programs, I want to applaud the many ways schools succeed in evolving to meet changing needs and to prepare kids for a changing future. Maybe I should make a list?

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