Overview: (What’s this idea about)
The model of a Parent-Teacher Conference (PTC) or Student-Led Conference (SLC) is something of a one-size-fits-all concept. However, parents have varying needs, and varying capacity to get involved with the school. Needs can range from simply wanting to understand their child’s schedule, to how to help with their child’s academic performance, to how to address their child’s social and emotional needs, to improving the parents’ own subjective experience of the school environment and community. Similarly, students may be more or less confident with leading an SLC themselves; or, conversely, may feel nervous about a PTC that is about them, but where they are not present. Finally, teachers - as we all know! - have different needs to address with the parents and students.
The idea we propose here is that the teacher, parents and student can agree beforehand about the kind of meeting they will have (PTC or SLC), the agenda for the meeting, the goals each hopes to accomplish in the meeting, and even whether the meeting will take place in person at school, or outside the school, or, perhaps, via the internet (Google Hangouts, for example).
Potential For Impact: (Why is this an idea that promotes continued growth?)
We can improve ownership of the meeting on all sides, have a better chance of covering the most important topics for each, maximizing the effectiveness of the meetings and best meeting the needs of the children, parents, and school.
We can also change the dynamic of the parent-teacher interaction: by collaborating as a team to set the agenda and format of the meeting, we meet as equals on a team, with the student’s best interests as a shared goal. The meeting is no longer the parents coming to listen to the teacher’s agenda on the teacher’s turf.
Value Prop/Pitch: (How would you pitch this to other teachers in your school? Your principal? Etc)
In school, we have learned that we should differentiate our teaching to meet the differing needs and learning styles of our students. In the same way, we can differentiate our interactions with the parents, to meet their needs for information, community, and communication style.
An important aspect of this approach is ensuring that the parent-teacher relationship is one of a team, working together toward a common goal - the student’s welfare. To get this relationship off to a good start, there would be social event near the start of the school year, where teachers and parents would mingle in a relaxed, non-academic setting, to get to know each other as people. The teachers could bring their partners to the event. The event should be as informal as possible: a picnic/barbeque, or game night, or crazy golf, rather than a dinner. It could be held off-campus, or on the school grounds (maybe outdoors, before the weather gets cold).
Advance preparation for the Student Team Meeting
The Student Team Meeting concept can work with either a more-traditional Parent-Teacher Conference (PTC) format, or with a Student-Led Conference (SLC) format. However, because of the emphasis on meeting all agendas, we recommend that SLC should be done only if the student agrees to it. If the student agrees to lead an SLC, the student and teacher should prepare the agenda for that portion of the meeting.
The teacher would send an email to the parents, announcing the meeting. The email should let the parents know
- There will be a meeting of the Student Team
- If appropriate, that the Student will lead an SLC (including a description of the SLC format, and the agenda the student has chosen - which can be preliminary), and that there will be a discussion period for the parents, teacher and student at the end
- That the goal of the meeting is to ensure that the parents, teacher and student will be able to discuss their agenda items, so that by the end of the meeting the team is all on the same page about priorities, goals, concerns, and future action items
- That there is a place (Google Document) where the parents can select agenda items they would like to discuss, either checking items on a standard list or writing in their own items in an input space at the end. The teacher will already have flagged items they expect to discuss. The document can be updated as the date of the meeting approaches and the student makes progress.
- That there are limits to the number of agenda items it will be possible to cover - it may be necessary to limit the number of items, or establish which items are a priority, to be covered first.
- The available times for in-person meetings at the school.
- If approved by administration, the available times for internet meetings, if the parents are not able to get to the school at one of the available in-person meeting times.
The meeting would then follow the agenda established beforehand. At the meeting, the teacher could make a few opening remarks to remind everyone of the planned format and agenda. If there is an SLC portion, the student would then take over, and the teacher could also act as process manager again for the open discussion period afterwards (mainly, to keep an eye on the time and make sure the priority agenda items are covered). If there is no SLC portion, the teacher would would watch to be sure that the priority agenda items are covered during the meeting, but otherwise would participate as an equal in a conversation: this is not “the teacher’s meeting”.
How you can get started:
This would have to be done in collaboration with the school administration.
- Class social event (preferably off school grounds?)
- Letter explaining choices PTC/SLC/GHO (PTC/SLC)
- SLC optional, not mandatory (will depend on student wanting to do it)
- SLC includes a mini-PTC at the end
- Google Hangouts as an option
Follow the process described above (Details).
Materials to get this idea off the ground:
Description of the idea in this document
Sample emails and descriptive documents (work in process!)
Testimonials from teachers/schools/administrators who have tried this
Link to gdoc:
What if deciding to have an SLC, or a PTC was not a decision made by the school itself, but by the people involved?
What if the parents, students and teachers decided together how they wanted the meeting to be, and agreed on the agenda of that meeting?
My idea would be that the teacher would send an invite to each parent/student and give them a choice of type of meeting. They would then agree on the type of meeting, and on the agenda. In a classroom of 19 students, there might be 5 where the parents, teacher and student had chosen an SLC, 9 where they had chosen a PTC, and 5 where the plan was to use a GHO (PTC or SLC )because the parents couldn’t get to the school.
We should differentiate how we talk to parents, one format does not fit all!