Update: June 3, 2016
We've added a pitch video for this idea and created a doc to share more about our idea. Check it out here and learn more below!
Overview: (What’s this idea about)
One thing that we wanted to challenge was the contrived formality of the design of PTCs in many schools. They are often too brief, lacking in depth, grounded in not so useful notions of authority and missing student voice/agency. The idea of “Family Dinner” emerges from the informal, but powerful connective conversations that families share around the dinner table. Also, “Family Dinner” is not some monolithic structure; it looks different in every home. We believe that PTCs need a structure that is flexible and can meet the varied needs of learners, families and teachers.
Potential For Impact:
PTCs are ultimately about relationships and relationships require time and care. PTCs should not be something that happens to a student, rather they should be at the center of them and (especially for older students) helping to lead them and/or being the primary driver of the conference.
“Family Dinner” PTCs should be designed with the following INGREDIENTS:
- Respect for the learning needs of the student, family and teacher
- Respect for the varied cultural traditions of families
- Consideration for the varied schedules of stakeholders
- Deeper versus superficial engagement
- Manageable for the already quite busy teacher
“Family Dinner” PTCs might include the following RECIPES:
- Just in time conferences: Instead of setting aside a compressed window for conferences (e.g., one or two days), let the teacher and family decide when it makes sense to meet so that there is a sense of authentic purpose for the meeting.
- Meet via Skype for parents whose work schedule or distance from school make it hard to come into the school.
- Work Exhibitions - Leverage other opportunities when we ask families to come to school to see student work/exhibitions. See these moments as opportunities to create “assessments for learning.” Provide a structure that allows parents to leave feedback for their child and for the teacher. After the exhibition, the students can respond back to their families and the teacher can respond individually where necessary and to the families collectively.
- Conversation Topics - Book groups or speaker series may create more value for families as they can explore important issues in these gatherings.
- "Tappas and Talk": Food is really a powerful way to bring folks together. Riffing on this idea (with the meal to follow) what if the items on the table (the Tappas menu) were pieces of student work and these pieces become the substance of the meal? At my school, we have done student led conferences for more than 20 years, but they are conversations with individual students at the center. I wonder how the experience might change if the conversation was led by several students with each serving as the "chef" for one of the dishes. The focus here would be on helping parents to understand something of the total "dining" experience of the class and not just the growth of their own child. In a way, it would become a sort of Descriptive Review of the Classroom. As a parent, I'd love to see my kid sharing his story with other classmates and families.
- Public Critiques: There are powerful example of these in the film Most Likely to Succeed where students reflect in public (often with their parents present) about their growth over the course of the year and in connection to their final exhibitions.
Looking to develop an idea of how to create the atmosphere and culture of parents-teacher-student interactions that are more family, value-driven, and solution oriented towards supporting growth of each child.