All day Monday and Tuesday, instead of teaching, I had the opportunity to have 20-minute conferences about the work each student did during the 1st quarter of 4th grade. Present at each conference was me, the student and a parent, sometimes both parents. The mothers of two families who speak another language at home, brought along an older sibling to help translate.
Last Friday, I had each student sit and practice with me so we would be ready for the conference. I made them a sheet to talk from where they circled from a set of choices and/or wrote in the one thing in each subject they are proud of. Then they also wrote an academic and behavioral area of strength and area for growth.
I let the student begin the conference and it was so fun listening. I placed the sentence stem: In ______, I am proud of ______. at the top of their sheet of notes. Their notes set them up to share so much with their parent(s). Then the parents shared. And then I shared. Then I had time to share where we are going next in 2nd quarter and I gave the parents a sheet listing suggestions for ways to help at home and a leveled book list.
Sitting face-to-face and taking time to talk is so valuable!! We live in the age of emails and tweets and texts. Yet, to sit and orally share is a gift! I was so proud of each child. Then, always meeting the parent(s) add to my picture of the child. This format allowed the parent to focus on the positives first. Years ago, I felt like a conference became a laundry list of a child's inadequacies. This format got all to share the positives. Then we still talked about areas for growth. I always asked the child: "What can I do to help you learn better?" and asked the parent(s): "What can I do to help you help your child at home?"
And as Kathleen Tolan taught me at TCRWP, when students do what we teach, this is OUR feedback (as well as when they don't do what we taught...probably means we need to teach it again!). Sitting, listening, and participating in these conferences became the feedback I needed to motivate me to keep working hard for another quarter! I had taught these students SO much in 9 weeks. Agreed, lots can be improved and lots still needs to be mastered. But I have taught each student and the workshop model allowed this to happen. It allows me to naturally differenciate. It helps me to meet each student at their level and grow them from there! Having the student share work that they are proud of put a smile on my face!
Then Wednesday came and I actually felt like the kids arrived at our classroom a little bit wiser. They were ready to start this new quarter. They had also completed a quarter of 4th grade. They now really understood the routines. They understand that I care and am here to do all I can to help them learn. They get that their parents want the best for them, too.
The only hard part was that it was only Wed....I got (had) to teach for 3 more full days now. I still had to get the report cards done. I still had to read the session 1 in the nonfiction reading units of study kit and the boxes and bullets session 1 for writing workshop. I still needed to collect one more check for the Jamestown trip. I still needed to fit in a science test, a math fraction markup test and then get the kids ready for our Veteran's Day celebration on Monday! I still had a Wed and Fri 7:45 conference for 2 families that traveled and couldn't come on Mon/Tue and one more this coming Tue. The To-Do List just keeps getting longer! This job is definitely keeping me busy and humble!!
But today I am happy that I was able to meet one-on-one with each family and that each student in my class had a moment to share orally with their parent(s) some positives related to reading, writing, and math workshop. Now onto quarter 2...