Thursday, February 12, 2015

Parent-Teacher Conferences

At our school, the student is completely removed from parent-teacher conferences.  The parents come into the gymnasium or the library and rotate from teacher to teacher and there is no expectation or even suggestion that the student should be present.  However, at the high school level I believe that these students SHOULD be aware of their progress, their assets and weaknesses in a subject and what areas they need to work on.  They also SHOULD be at a point where they are beginning to take ownership of their own educations and communicating with their parents about their progress in school.  Now, just because they SHOULD be doing all of this, doesn't mean that they are and given that they are still technically "children" they generally require some adult guidance in order to be skilled at any of this.
My other reasoning behind some of the assignments that I am about to share is that parents who are able to attend parent/teacher conferences get excellent feedback and information about the progress of their students.  However, many parents either cannot or choose not to attend conferences at the high school level.  I believe these parents still deserve the opportunity to hear detailed feedback about the progress of their student.
In order to help students to take more ownership for their own education, ensure that they are communicating, and make certain that all parents receive some information about their student's current progress I have created the following assignments - I usually have the students complete these a day or two before conferences and I bring them to conferences with me.  If the parents come to conferences, I use these letters to guide our conversation.  If the parents are not present, the student is required to take this home and get a signature from their parent - ensuring an equitable opportunity for all parents.
In addition to these reflections, I will often ask students to attach one assignment that they are proud of and want me to show off to their parents.
I have literally had parents cry while reading these at conferences (their child never shares with them) and receive a huge "thanks" from many parents after sharing these with them.  The students are generally VERY honest on this assignment - they know that I will be sitting across from their parents and sharing this assignment with them.

Here are a couple of different form letters or assignments that I have used to guide parent-teacher conferences.  I select a different one each time depending on the level of the students and time of year, whether we need to practice formal letter writing, etc.

I also bring with me these two articles - I have found that parents often feel lost about how to manage homework at the high-school level and these resources provide excellent insight for parents who might feel like they need some tools.

This does take some extra work, but in my opinion parents deserve to be informed - even at the high school level - and this gives them the opportunity to hear about the progress of their child straight from the horse's mouth - so to speak.  It also forces the student to think critically about their progress, areas of strength and weakness, contributing factors to their current grade, their behavior and goals.

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