Wednesday, March 18, 2015

SOLC # 19/31 - Celebrating Conferences



                Also blogging with my students at Linda & Jonathan's Class Blog


Day Nineteen of the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.  Tweet at #SOL15
                Thanks to Tara, Dana, Anna, Betsy, Beth and Stacey for all the work you're doing to make this month lovely!
Not my classroom, but it's a pretty picture-old times, long ago.

            We have student/teacher/parent conferences the next two days, student led with each presenting a portfolio of work. While I am filled to the brim with information and talk, talk, talk by the end of each day, there are moments of joy and appreciation during this time. Since this is the final formal conference of the year, we need both to look forward and look back. Our time is planned for 30 minutes, but often goes over into the break of 15 minutes. Sometimes I slip away for a bathroom break, or to re-fill the water bottle. But mostly I sit, listening. Here are the things I love about conferences, intense as they are.



  • I love the opportunity for parents to be in the classroom. When one teaches middle-school-aged students, parents aren't here very often. It's lovely to have them visit to see all the work posted inside and outside on bulletin boards. You probably know that many older students don't show their parents much.
  • It's great to see the parents compliment their children on the work they view. They stop and look, read if needed, often ask questions. They take time to appreciate.
  • I enjoy watching the students with their parents. These are now young adults, but the child in them still shows an eagerness for approval. I see them beam sometimes, I do!
  • Sitting in a group around a table with everyone with one focus is a bit nerve-racking for the students who at this age don't always love a spotlight. However, most have been doing this since they were five, and after a bit of shakiness, they smooth out, and speak with authority about their work.
  • I like the way students point certain parts out they are especially proud of, and often look at their parents and me to see if I agree. I've already seen all these portfolios, but still they want to be sure that we agree with what they're saying.
  • It is rare that students stumble when asked to elaborate on a point of work or thinking. Some are expert at thinking on their feet and some feel comfortable taking time to think of the answer they want. Either way, I'm often pleased with this part of our conversations. They are willing to expand their thinking, often have explanations that teach me more.
  • I love the feeling that all of us have at the end of the conference, a tough job well done, long months of school challenges and accomplishments celebrated.
  • It is good to finish a group of time with conferences. Like a large exclamation point, a positive and  loud ending. I like it because now the next paragraph begins!

32 comments:

  1. I held student-led conferences for the first time last year. It was amazing what the students presented to their parents. I love your last bullet point - now the next paragraph begins!

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    1. Thanks, Leigh Anne. Long day, but satisfying.

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  2. I'm on my way out for a long day and night of conferences myself. You post fills my heart with hope that the day will be peaceful and happy as we share the good and the areas to grow.

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    1. I wish you a good day, Anita. Evening too?

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  3. Student led conferences are so powerful and your slice captures them well. I missed them this year. Have fun!

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    1. Thanks, happy you've done them too. I will enjoy them.

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  4. We began student led conferences just this spring. There was a little push back at first from students and parents. But once we went through them, there was praise from everyone. I think our parents saw their kids in a whole new light. I can't wait until we have done these for a few years to see how they change.

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    1. I love hearing this, Deb. Seems like high schoolers especially should be taking charge of their learning.

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  5. My first conference starts in an hour an I have thirteen straight through except for a break for lunch. My non-awake brain was not ready too appreciate the day yet but your post woke me up and I'm looking forward to them now. Have a great last set of conferences. Your students are so lucky to have you this year!

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    1. Aw, thanks, Max. Glad I could help you see the good in them. It is a very long day, I agree. Have a great day yourself! And see you at lunch!

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  6. Those desks look like the kind I sat in while in elementary school.

    I always loved showcasing students' work. We would end our year with a Curriculum Fair where each teacher would display work done throughout the rear. It was an Open House format so parents and students would come and go at will during the two hour time slot. It was great seeing students show their parents what they accomplished throughout the year. The best part, though, was hearing the parents' praise the students for their accomplishments. Students would just beam.

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    1. So you know exactly what I mean! Your fair is like our Expo, always a wonderful time. Thanks for telling me.

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  7. As always, your school is exemplary. To have conferences like this in middle school is not the norm in my district. The classes are too big. What a wonderful time to have parents and students and teachers working together.

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    1. Thanks Julieanne, half done now. It's too bad that others cannot spend the time with these middle schoolers. They need it!

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  8. Linda, this was an inspiring read as we reflect on conferences and data at our school. Thank you for sharing! I would love to see my First Graders reflect on their learning with their parents.

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    1. I just spoke with my daughter about Ingrid's conference, the five year old presenting examples of her "best" work. It starts early and builds.

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  9. I love this time of year too -- a time to celebrate our learning. It's so exciting to hear that your middle school students are still sharing and looking for approval. I enjoyed reading about your celebration days ... and now the next chapter is ready to be written!

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    1. Yes, although I'm full to the brim with information, it was a great day, & makes me look forward to what's next. Thanks, Michelle.

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  10. They were always powerful. I really believe children need to be a part of a conference - gives all involved the knowledge we were all on the same page. Great points Linda

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    1. Thanks, you're so right. Empowering students to take charge of their own work is critical.

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  11. Thanks for sharing this, Linda! I'm sure it is interesting to experience the students in this capacity. I hope you enjoy your conferences today!

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    1. Thank you. Hope finally, long day, but a satisfying one.

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  12. I think parents really appreciate the student led conference. I know I would have loved to have my son demonstrate his learning. It is a long day, but beneficial for all.

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    1. Yep, that skill of looking at oneself and using that look to move forward is something not all students learn early enough I think. Thanks Elsie.

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  13. I've wished we had the practice of such conferences, Linda - your post is exactly why they are so valuable. Conferences like these build a community.

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    1. If we say we are giving students choice in so many things, they should be ready to show what they've done with that choice. It's critical for us. Thanks Tara, wish you could do this. Your students would have much to say, wouldn't they?

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  14. I love your descriptions of your students, especially the reflections about them as young adults, but still needing and seeking out approval. How lovely that you get a half hour to talk with each family. Our conferences always feel rushed. How lovely also that you give so much power and initiative to the students.

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    1. I'm glad you appreciate what I've described, Melanie. Today was long, but each conference was unique to the student and it was good to celebrate and make future plans. Thank you.

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  15. What an incredible gift these conferences are to your students and their parents! Thank you for giving us a glimpse of into this valuable process. So much more worthwhile than the testing we're bogged down with.

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    1. I never really thought about it being like a test, but in a way it is. The student is the center of attention, expected to show his or her work and the ways progress is being made. Thanks, Catherine.

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  16. I love, love, love that you are doing these in middle school! How I would have loved to hear my boys talk about themselves as learners, rather than hearing a teacher tell me what they were doing wrong and how many assignments they were missing! Such an amazing celebration of learning!

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    1. Thanks, Carol. Wouldn't it have been wonderful, I agree. There is a big part of me that doesn't understand why some don't think that middle school kids can't take charge of themselves. They can!

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Having a conversation is a good thing!