There are many educational publications and e-newsletters that I read as often as possible. Many of them, like most of my books on education, specifically focus on the middle school experience. In several conversations with parents I have explained just how unique of a time the middle school years are in a child’s life. These scholarly works urge administrators and teachers of middle schoolers to embrace and address the needs of learners at this age. One topic that is a growing thread in several of the articles, research and books that I read is a belief that the student-led conference is one of the most successful ways to get students to become full participants in their educational experience.
I believe that it is important for parents to remember that these conferences are designed with two major goals in mind. First, parents should walk away from a conference and feel that they know their child’s academic and social strengths as well as the areas of needed improvement. However, the more important goal for everyone to remember is that the main purpose of these student-led conferences is for students to feel empowered. In the end, the child should walk out of each conference fully aware of his/her ability to directly impact his/her academic and social well being.
The role of adults in this conference is to listen to the student and then to help guide them through a process that leads to proper assessment of the child’s current academic standings. Each child should have a very good vision of what they hope to accomplish AND how to accomplish those goals. Adults are not the predominate voice in the conference. This is a time for us to follow the lead of the children, but we also must redirect them if they are not headed in a good direction.
So ask questions, ask for a deeper explanation, prompt your child for deeper analysis of a class or a set of skills needed for success in a class. Just be sure to remember that this conference is about the child. If all goes well (and I am sure they will), then we can achieve the ultimate goal of these conferences – promoting continued cognitive growth and developing a deeper understanding of personal responsibility and accountability. According to one of my favorite books, What Every Middle School Teacher Should Know, “Student-led conferences are a perfect fit for matching the cognitive growth processes of young adolescents with learning opportunities and self-directions that are necessary for genuine cognitive development.”
We look forward to seeing you next week, and we hope you join us in doing your part to empower your child to continue to find success at school and in their personal lives.