When the Students Have a Say
Conferences are typically thought of as a conversation between teachers and parents. However, during our conference day this past December, the adults weren’t the only ones doing the talking. For 5th-12th grade, students had a role in leading their conferences.
Student-led conferences foster an environment where students, parents/guardians, and teachers can engage in an open and candid dialogue about areas of strength and challenge. These participatory meetings promote the culture of growth mindset and accountability that we are actively working on with students throughout the school year.
At each level this process looks a little different.
In Galaxy (5th and 6th grade) the conference is divided into two sections. First, the parent/guardian meets with the teacher. During the second section, the student joins the conference to talk about the recent evaluation, composed of a checklist of skills and narratives for each subject area, and to set goals for the year. Parents/guardians have an opportunity to read the evaluation beforehand, and students have an opportunity to work on goal setting in class prior to the conference.
In Middle School (7th and 8th grade) students lead the conference with a parent/guardian and advisor present. Prior to the conference, the advisors work with each advisee to prepare for the meeting. Students have an opportunity to discuss what they have been learning, areas of strength, areas of challenge, work products, and supports they may need to learn new skills. During this time, student work samples are available for them to assist with leading their conference.
In Upper School (9th to 12th grade) students lead the conference with a parent/guardian and advisor present. In preparation for the conference, advisors and teachers work with each student to help them prepare for the meeting. Upper School students take a leadership and reflective role in the preparation process. Students have an opportunity to discuss what they have been learning, areas of strength, areas of challenge, work products, and supports they may need to learn new skills with their families.
When we choose to include students in this process, conferences are seen as a collaborative approach, students have buy-in, and they provide a valuable opportunity for reflection and goal-setting. Our 5th-12th grade students are able to take ownership of their education and see that it is a partnership between themselves, their parents, and their teachers.