Parent-teacher conferences ignore the most important person in the learning– the student! That’s why we have family conferences at PDS.
Students attend both the fall and spring conferences in middle school. In fall, advisors have assembled information from each teacher about how the start of the year has gone. Patterns begin to emerge, and advisors and students begin to set attainable, small goals for the second part of the fall and early winter.
While sitting with parents and a teacher around a table can be a little intimidating for the first few minutes, students are generally quite comfortable during these meetings. They are but one moment in the whole relationship they have with their advisor and their parents. Furthermore, most students tend to focus on what they are afraid might be brought up (that late homework assignment…, the time they talked too much with a friend in class…) but mostly these incidents are resolved quickly during the school day, and the conference is not the time to relate new,”bad” news. As one advisee told me, when asked what she thought of her first family conference, “I didn’t expect to hear so many good things!”
Advisors are deliberate about focusing on the strengths that each student brings to the program. Where patterns emerge that need to be addressed (for example, repeated missed work or difficulty understanding material) it is the student who is the most valuable contributor towards making headway on turning things around.
Students must be at the center of our conversations about their learning. When given a chance to sit with attentive adults, and when respected by being asked to speak about their learning, their wisdom is invaluable.