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Blog: Wednesday, November 30th, 2016
West Side Story (Part 2)
Student Led Conferences
Last week I had the pleasure of visiting Eugene Reimer Middle. Of course, it was parent-teacher conference/report card season, so there was a lot of evidence of preparation in the school related to connecting with parents about how students were progressing. Coincidentally, two of the questions I ask principals during my visit are:
- What progress is the staff making with implementing the re-designed curriculum?
- How are you engaging parents in the new language of learning associated with the re-designed curriculum?
I happened to visit Shelly Sangha’s grade six classroom after they had completed parent teacher interviews, and among other things, queried them about how their student led conferences went. They were a little shy about it, but I managed to gather that it went quite well. In her class, students were given a framework for developing their portfolio, and were coached in how to present it to their parents. After introducing the parents to their teacher, they commenced with:
“I want to begin by showing you some of the work I have been doing in class. I have chosen work carefully and written a reflection for each piece and will be sharing that with you now.”
Students would then proceed to take their parent/guardian through a guided tour of their learning experiences from the first term. They shared artifacts from their core subjects, and also discussed their behavior, study habits, social responsibility and goals for the future. I will not go into great detail here about the process, as I know that many schools use this approach with tremendous success. My only editorial is that EVERY student in the District should do this at least once in the school year. More on that some other time…
I surface this experience not only because I enjoyed the visit to Eugene Reimer, but because student led conferences point to a promising answer to my second question above. The best way to engage parents about the language of the curriculum is through the students! As teachers and administrators become more comfortable with the pedagogy of our competency based curriculum, they will begin to use the language with students to teach them to know, do, understand, and reflect. The best way for students to consolidate this understanding is to explain it to another…. such as their parents. It is an interesting premise which was punctuated for me as I spoke with Shelly and her students:
Parents will understand the concepts of the new curriculum to the extent that their children can demonstrate it.
In light of the re-designed curriculum, how might student led conferences be structured to strengthen understanding about the curricular standards and competencies? (Perhaps without knowing it, Principal Levings helped answer one of my key questions J).