Tuesday, October 13, 2015

3 Reasons to Hold Student Conferences

Today was possibly one of my favorite days as a teacher.  I have often had conversations with my students.  We've had Genius Hour conferences, brainstorming sessions, and class meetings.  But today was different.  Today, I let my students negotiate and give input as I completed their 4C Rubrics for the end of the six weeks.  I had heard Don Wettrick share how he allowed his students to do this and wanted to give my students the same opportunity.

I met with students individually and shared the rubrics that I had completed.  I explained why I rated them the way that I did and then gave them an opportunity to respond.  I could have never imagined the amazing conversations that occurred as a result of asking for their feedback.

You see, I honestly expected that students would just accept the score that I had given them or argue that they deserved higher a score with little evidence for their argument.  Boy, was I wrong!  Instead, my students did the opposite.  They listened well as I explained my decisions and then responded. Not only did they respond but they justified their responses with evidence and specific examples. They shared struggles and successes, strengths and weaknesses.

I was so impressed when I heard things like, "Mrs. McNair, I really think I need a 2 instead of a 3 for risk-taking.  It seems like I take a lot of risks but I don't like to if I feel like I am going fail" from the mouths of my fifth grade students.   Many of them shared specific examples of how they had demonstrated specific skills.  They also shared examples of their weaknesses and struggles.  This is huge in a Gifted Education classroom.

In reflecting on today's experience, I saw three major benefits to allowing my students to have a voice in the feedback process.

1.  Students see you as someone that is on their side.  I wasn't sitting behind my desk handing down my opinions and judgment.  Instead, we collaborated to come up with some of their strengths and weaknesses.  We discussed what they need to work on and what they do well.  They saw me as someone wanting to help them reach their goals.

2.  You learn so much about your students and their goals.  There is only so much you can know about your students from a parent information sheet and a stack of completed worksheets. Conversation opens doors to relationships and give us opportunities to really know our students. Knowing our students helps us make their learning experiences meaningful and know what will and will not work for them.

3.  Students begin see themselves as learners.  So often our students just see school as a place that they have to be and learning as a chore that has to be accomplished each day.  When they are given the opportunity to take an active role in their learning experiences, they begin to see learning as meaningful.  As a result, they see reflection as a beneficial and necessary part of the learning process.

Today was such a great day!  My students amazed me with their ability to assess themselves honestly.  This is definitely something that we will be doing at the end of each six weeks.  I look forward to seeing progress and watching them grow in their areas of weakness.


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