I continue to like having the conferences during the same week for the following reasons:
- I'm sharing the same types of information with each family. When the conferences are spread out over a long time the information and focus tends to shift during the multiple weeks.
- It is easier to see trends with regard to students' needs and the classroom program. These trends help me to review and revise the program with a focus on student/families' needs.
- The conferences become one week with a focus outside of the typical classroom learning/teaching focus rather than multiple weeks thus taking less time away from the important day-to-day work.
As I reflect on the conferences, I have the following takeaways:
You Can't Be Nice Enough
More than anything families and students want the teacher to be a kind, caring, compassionate coach. It is important that we know our students well and care for them in ways that matter.
Take the Job Seriously
Teaching is an important job, and everything we do matters. So take the big picture and little details seriously. Plan the learning well, and take time to review the plans and program with the students and families regularly.
Teach in Multiple Ways
Students' reflections clearly demonstrated that they prefer a myriad of teaching approaches and modalities. It was striking to see the differences. For example some prefer whole class teaching, others want to learn with small groups of peers, and still more prefer one-to-one coaching. The same variety was true when it came to students' favorite subjects and projects.
Make Learning Rich and Fun
Families liked seeing the data from standardized test scores, but they really liked viewing students' rich writing and project work. The standardized test scores served to show families if a child was on track with basic skills while students' poetry and stories demonstrated their rich personality, dreams, perspective, and interests.
The portfolios provided a terrific snapshot of student learning. Next year I want to make a point of starting those portfolios earlier in the year and making more time for simple reflection and additions to the portfolio on a regular basis.
Make Time for Regular, Targeted Feedback
Respond to students' learning efforts and work with positivity. A targeted comment and rubric review of a project provided positive feedback and review and served the conference well.
It is the thoughtful, caring, well-researched, serious work we do with and for each child that matters. To teach well means that you keep children center stage and teach them in positive ways that encourage, engage, and empower.
The parent conferences led to the following goals for the rest of the school year:
- Care for each child well.
- Provide regular, thoughtful feedback in response to student learning.
- Plan and carry out rich, deep learning projects and events.
- Continue to attend to the standards and teach for mastery to ensure students' essential skill development.
- Slow down the classroom to provide more thoughtful time for transitions, student share, and organization. This serves to keep the learning/teaching environment organized and student-focused.
- Continue to add to and develop student showcase portfolios.
When discussing this post and other matters with my sister who is an educator too, she remarked that the most important work educators do is the work we do in our classrooms. I found this to be an inspiring focus for the teaching/learning to come.