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Thursday, September 29, 2016


Last week was parent teacher conferences.

Despite the super long hours, it was fun.

My total was over forty parents.

That is, for the record, 35% of my parents.

Maybe that doesn't sound like much.

For high school, though, it is huge.

And even better, I saw half of my current F students' parents.

And about a third of my D students' parents.

This is awesome for a couple of reasons.

First, I want every student to succeed and parents help.

If we can establish a powerful partnership, students will benefit.

Second, I am required to contact, by phone, the parent or guardian of every student with a D or an F.

Time consuming, tedious work.

With, to be honest, limited benefits.

Powerful partnerships are essential.

But powerful relationships with students matter more.

Especially with students who are struggling.

That is where I would rather spend my energy.

I guess that is one reason I find conferences fun.

Instead of talking about kids, I make the kids communicate.

The day before conferences, every student author's a cloze letter concerning their current grade.

Students detail the grade they have earned, areas of success, opportunities for improvement, and ways their parent/guardian can help.

Each conference begins with me handing over a student written letter.

If the student is in attendance, they read their letter out loud.

If the student is not in attendance, parents read the letters.

Either way, it completely changes the conversation.

I don't tell the parent a grade, a strength, a concern.

Their child tells them all that.

Parents and I are witness to self-reflection and so automatically on the same side.

What floors me?

My students are consistently accurate and honest in those letters.

Much more so than out loud.

I wonder why-safer somehow?

No matter, it works and that is enough for me.

The dynamic is incredibly productive.

We still discuss the behaviors, the strategies, the homework needed to improve.

I still try to find a way to brag a little on every single kid.

It just works.

Even with the letters, I still spend more time asking present students questions than providing answers.

Both students and parents tend to be much more positive.

I wish I could take credit for the idea of student letters for conferences.

I can't.

My former student teacher, current friend, and six year colleague came up with this.

She even wrote a Spanish translation!

I copy off of her regularly, because she is brilliant.

The cloze letter for conferences might be her best idea ever.

All of that goodness pales in comparison to what really made my heart sing.

At least three former students came to see me.

With their parent.

Just to say hi.

Several of my current students introduced me to their parent as their favorite teacher.

Flattering, that.

One kid, sat down and said "This is Ms. Hirsch, you know, the funny one."

Can I just tell the world how not funny I really am?

I might actually be a comedic imbecile.

My sense of humor is, at best, underdeveloped.

So being called the funny one is kind of a big deal.

I try for humor, but I mostly fail.

Goofy, silly, outrageous, ridiculous I do well.

Funny, not so much.

My sad little unfunny heart went pitter-pat at that.

So, conferences were a good thing.

Exhausting, interminable, hard, yes.

But mostly, meeting parents about parents was a very good thing.

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