Meeting with parents is one of my favorite events of the year. I really enjoy sitting with families and discussing the growth their child has made. Spring conferences are especially enjoyable for me because the body of work the students have produced is always so remarkable. This time is also a bit sad because much of the conversation is geared towards the school year coming to a close. It's emotionally difficult to think about the children you've been with all year preparing to get ready for their next grade level and ultimately leaving you. However, at the heart of the conference is the goal of celebrating the successes the child has made. As I begin to gather resources, artifacts, and materials to share with parents, I like to involve the children. I feel it is important for each child to have an opportunity to share what he or she values. Together, we decide which artifacts to highlight at conferences. This year, the students took it a step further and found a way to have their voice be a part of the parent meeting. Keep reading to find out what idea these creative kids came up with to share their voice.
I find that I get so busy organizing student work that straightening my room and organizing a meeting space often falls to the bottom of my list. However, as a parent at my own children's conferences, I've felt the difference between walking into a calming space and one that is on the chaotic side. It is a great feeling to enter a classroom and know you are welcomed. This positive feeling makes me feel like my time is important and the work my child does is valued. I want my students' parents to feel this way too.
I set up a seating area where we have enough room to spread out and share student work. I also have writing materials ready for the parents. I set up two seats in case both parents show up for the conference. I always have enough writing materials for both parents, too. Additionally I place small, cold bottles of water on the table and have a tiny basket of candies available.
Whether parents arrive early or you have a conference that is running long, it's important to have something available for parents who are waiting. This will help to ease potential anxiety and provide something constructive to do to pass the time.
This year, I liked what one of my fellow first grade teachers, April Heaton, had on display. She set up her iPad to share various student videos she had put together throughout the year. She created a document in Microsoft Word on her computer and included video links from Animoto. She saved the document as a PDF and emailed that file to herself. From the iPad, she checked her email and opened the PDF. She saved the PDF in Dropbox on her iPad. Once the file was in Dropbox, she simply opened that document and had that page displayed as her screen. Parents were then able to click each link and connect to each video.
I used to try to pull student materials right before each conference. However, I would often run out of time and feel rushed during the meeting. Now we pull all of the tools we wish to share at the end of class, the day of the conference. Each child helps to organize the materials in the same way. We put the materials on a table in the time order in which each family has signed up for conferences.
My goal is to keep the focus on student work. I also try to share as much about the student's process as possible. I focus less on the polished products the students have created and more on the effort and growth. This way, parents can see the learning journey and have a glimpse of what lessons are like in the classroom.
When we are gathering materials, we do so not only to share student work, but also to provide resources to support student learning. I think it is important to offer parents resources to help in any way . . . especially in areas specific to their child's needs. The easier I can make it for parents, the more willing I find they are to use the resources.
You can click here to see the video I put together sharing and explaining the materials we share at conferences.
One of my favorite ideas the children did this year was to add their voice to the conference. They each recorded a brief video sharing what they would like their parents to know about their second grade year. I opened each conference by sharing their child's video.