What do they really think?

I asked students to use a free write to share about conferences, and their responses weren't too surprising.

Photo of Clint Heitz
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When I received the notice about this topic, I turned to my students immediately. We had a five-minute re-write for students to reflect on what they felt about conferences. Overwhelmingly, the students responded that they mostly felt that conferences were useless. In their eyes, they saw it one of three ways:

  • Most common comment: Conferences are only for students who aren't doing well. Otherwise, what's the point of getting together? (a.k.a. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.)
  • Second most common: At our level, high school, students should be responsible for their own grades and held accountable.
  • For those who aren't doing so well: "What's the point? I know what I'm doing wrong, why do I want to hear about it?"

Now, this is only one class, but the trend was overwhelming: Students see parents talking to teachers as a negative experience! Unfortunately, we know that this is true for parents, too. I have had numerous parent phone calls include comments like, "What did he/she do now? or "Oh, I assumed you were calling about an issue."

This stigma about parent and teacher communication is creating a tension that makes all of our lives more challenging and stressful. I would love if all of our students and parents could communicate openly without that worry in the back of their mind. 

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Photo of John

I've been at conferences for my kids where it was a speed dating-style 5- minutes with each teacher.  Maybe we should rethink conferences althogether.  They are baked into our school routines - just like equal time for each class and segmenting skills into individual subjects.  Maybe we should take a step back and think about what we are trying to accomplish.  

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