It's student-family conference season!
I just experienced my first conference from the family side with my Kindergartner. Here's the advice I would have shared with my son's teacher if I was her coach:
(1) Offer an interpreter EVERY TIME -- don't assume
I talked to a school last week who offered an interpreter for an 11th grader for the first time. Turns out, the family had very serious mental health concerns about the the student, but didn't know how to raise them. Just like teaching, smiling + nodding does not equal understanding -- it's useful to throw in some repeat backs to check for understanding.
(2) Start by listening
Ask if there is anything the family is hoping to discuss. This helps you know what to spend time on, establishes a two-way conversation and builds trust.
(3) Roll out student-led conferences purposefully
Student-led conferences are ideal for building intrinsic motivation, and they take work to prepare. Here's how EdLight can support student-led conferences.
(4) Don't use standards jargon
Have a rationalized set of standards + nicknames for your standards that use real words. For example, instead of "RL6.2" say "Identifying what a story is mostly about".
(5) Show work samples
Even better than talking about standards is showing student work. Centering the conversation in actual work aligns everyone so much faster than talking about percentages or grades. Show how the work responds to revision to show the types of feedback + support you are giving and to valorize hard work.
Show the need and the need will be clear.
(6) Be mindful of race and gender dynamics
When interacting with families in urban schools, I try to reduce the social distance between us. As a tall white dude, for me that includes dressing less formally, making sure the chairs will put us all at eye level, explicitly asking for feedback, etc.
(7) Role play the most difficult conversations with a colleague
If your 6th sense is telling you that a conversation will be hard, take the time to practice using strategies 1-6.
We want to get even better are supporting teachers with student-led conferences. Who's got the best practices that we should talk to?