Sunday, November 9, 2014

Do We Need Parent-Teacher Conferences? A Better Alternative

We just wrapped up our most recent round of parent-teacher conferences. Attendance was dismal.

The poor attendance caused me to reflect, “Why was attendance so low?”
  • With student grades being updated regularly online, parents know how their children are doing.
  • Our teachers and counselors regularly communicate with families, sharing positive news, student progress, and student challenges. They’ve reached out to parents of struggling students, so phone calls and conferences with many parents have already been held prior to Parent-Teacher Conference night.
  • By high school, many parents have heard the same thing for years about their child.
The idea behind parent-teacher conferences—to support student success through engaging parents—is commendable, but if parents aren’t attending, we must look at other ways to create shared school-family responsibility to support student learning and development.

So what if, instead of parent-teacher conferences, we used the allotted and required parent-teacher conference days to plan for and conduct Student Showcases?

Many classrooms sat empty during our most recent parent-teacher conferences. Maybe it's time we look for alternatives

What’s a Student Showcase?
  • An annual event where families, community members and others are invited
  • An experiences that highlights student work, creativity, discovery, ingenuity, research, innovation, 21st-century skills, and more
  • A forum that engages students, families and community
  • A means of communicating all the wonderful work our students/children and teachers do
  • Opportunities for students to present their work, interact with the public and gain valuable experiences that extend beyond the classroom
  • A way for students to connect with members of the community, potentially leading to jobs or other opportunities
Possible Student Showcase Ideas:
  • Culinary students perform cooking demonstrations.
  • Choir, orchestra and band classes give small, intimate concerts.
  • Senior capstone students share their projects with community members.
  • Students in floral design hold workshops for families, allowing families to learn the tricks-of-the-trade. 
  • English, foreign language, and social studies classes present projects, make speeches, conduct Socratic Seminars, recite poetry, etc. with families in attendance.
  • Students in Career-Technical Education classes present and demonstrate their projects.
  • Art students display their works.
  • Science students conduct and explain labs or projects to community members.
  • Students in health and PE teach some of the unique games they play to their families or present some of their health projects to families.
  • Students in film analysis showcase their films.
  • Computer programming students share their programs and games. 
I know a school-wide event like this requires immense planning and time, things that educators don't exactly have a lot of, so it would require some tweaking to our school calendar and some other minor changes. But, I also view the Student Showcase as an opportunity to celebrate student growth and excellence, things that we can never do enough of.

As a parent, I know I’d be excited and eager to attend an event like this.

Maybe it’s time we scrap, the traditional parent-teacher conferences for something different, something better. Let me know your thoughts below.


Tim said...

What a great idea! I think one of the most important statements you make is "By high school, many parents have heard the same thing for years about their child." It's so true. It's time for a paradigm shift, and it's time to start new dialogues to refresh family-school relationships! Thanks for sharing.

Keith Howell said...

Reed, Great idea and it is another example of empowering our students. I always enjoy observing a conference when our students are leading them, showcasing their learning and future goals. I look forward to hearing if you make the shift to "a better alternative." Good luck!

Shyla John said...

It is good to observing a conference when our students are leading them, showcasing their learning and future goals.

Office screen

Logan Mannix said...

Agreed - with today's technology a parent teacher conference is rarely necessary, and not usually well timed. I think students need more opportunities to have an audience beyond their teacher for the work. I would love the chance to have students present an investigation or experiment to the community.