Enthusiastic students sharing their work with proud parents at student-led conferences.
Watching my grade 8 students and their families is always a treat. It isn't hard to imagine home lives where every night of the week is filled with some social obligation, team practice, club meeting, or work shift. Interactions at home may be little more than pleasantries and sorting logistics as families pass on their way to meet the day's obligations. Student led conferences, though, are about the child, his achievements, and goals. It's about celebrating growth, anticipating what's next, and being proud.
Some, of course, are not so celebratory: a challenging term, changes in effort and focus, disengagement, family upheaval, you name it. These are the conferences that take a tremendous amount of skill. While it is easy to list off everything that's wrong and demand improvement, it rarely does any good. Understanding the family dynamic, determining the needs behind the bahaviours, and establishing trust with both parent and child are important pieces of the puzzle.
My grandfather was known for always finding something positive to say about everyone. This is where I start - what is good about this child? Where do they shine? How can I create opportunities to highlight that skill? What stories can I tell families about these characteristics? What will give this child and those parents something to be proud of and see hope. Once they've seen the positive, it is easier to show the growth opportunities.
When the parent of a child in crisis has reason to smile, and shares a sense of worth AND hope, the relationship is strengthened. The sense of hope, the dim but visible light at the end of the tunnel compelling the student to achieve is unmistakable. The child's face, usually expressing some surprise, but relief, appreciating the kudos for those small things that earned him praise, and then processing the unspoken but clearly implied invitation to rise to the challenge.
See you Monday!