I love them. I know many of you dread them, but I really love them. I love the personal connection that is impossible on a report card. I love being able to SHOW the parents examples of their child’s work and point things out that I want them to notice. I want them to hear in my voice how much I care and how much of a commitment I have to their child. A piece of paper or an email simply doesn’t cut it.
We have 20 minute conferences which is a decent length for most students…I start by asking if there are any questions about the report card and we address those. After that, we pull out the folder I have put together that has key work samples, their reading/writing notebook, process writing pieces, and and assessments I wish to reference. We don’t look at every single piece–just if I need some “evidence” to explain my thinking or to show their where their child is performing or to answer questions they may have. It makes it so much more real to be able to talk about actual work samples than just throwing around random numbers like lexiles or nebulous comments like “I would like to see her improve her writing conventions.” Show, not tell–right?
The fall leaf paper is a notebook sheet I place on the top of each folder. When the conference finishes, I ask the parent to write their child a quick note about how proud they are that I then slip inside their desk the next day. The students love it–and it is a reminder to parents about how important it is to tell their kids that they love them and are proud of them. I use this time to really try to get at the heart of whether or not they have any concerns about their child socially or in any other context–so they know that I understand that school is about way more than grades and academics.
I also have handy a reading rubric I use so I can show them what it means to be a “4” as well as the writing checklists we use and an anchor paper that shows what a “4” piece of writing is. It is pretty powerful to be able to show parents the end-of-grade expectation and then put their child’s work next to it. Lots of light bulbs went off. I also like to have a small stack of books at different levels so I can show the parents the types of books their child is reading, where I am hoping they will be next, and what the end of year expectation is. Sometimes parents have no clue what reading a “fourth grade book” is–and it can really help them understand either how well their child is doing or how much they need to grow. It can also really help them when picking “just right books” for them at the library and to check their home reading.
So–Day 1 is under my belt and I have 14 more today. Wish me luck! 🙂