Student Led Conferences Facilitates Communication and Student Empowerment

At least once a year all over the country, parents come into their child's school and sit down for a meeting with the teacher. Often this is focused around grades and behavior and students cringe at the thought of parents and teachers meeting and talking about them. Even those students who are doing well in everything, still hope that their parents will be pleased with what they have done.

Parent and teacher communication is really important and should occur when there is a need to tell a parent about concerns and successes within the class. However, I have always found it awkward to talk about the student in the 3rd person when they are sitting right there. The time provided usually does not allow me to go into any sort of depth. I am grateful that at my school we have implemented Student Led Conferences which I believe goes a long way in facilitating parent/student relationship while focusing on goals and success.

Twice a year for about a week or so we ask our parents to come in for about 20 minutes each. They come in and sit down with their student. The student gets out their work and shows the evidence for what they have done so far this year. They talk about what has worked well in the past and what they have/are struggling with. The student has goals on what they hope to achieve over the year and is well aware of what needs to be done to help them reach their goals. Because each student is having an one-on-one conversation, we can have as many going on at once as we have space for.

We the teachers, purposefully avoid being drawn into the conversations because this is supposed to be a chance for students to take control of their own learning. We provide a sign up sheet if the parents would like to have a follow up conversation. This is difficult for everyone involved especially their first time because we are so trained in the typical parent/teacher roles at a conference.

While there are occasionally meltdowns or frustrations, we coach our students beforehand to take charge of the conversation. Similar to a job interview, we encourage them to talk about what has not gone well in the past (emphasis past) and how they are going to work to overcome those challenges in the future. Parents love seeing what students have created and hearing them talk about the work they are doing.

There really is no reason why you shouldn't do student led conferences. They allow a more deep conversation, are more efficient, and encourage parent support within the classroom. Concerns you have can be overcome once you see how much more confident, self-motivated, and empowered your students are afterwards.