Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A different perspective ?? and the possibilities---

A recent post and ensuing discussion on Konrad Glogowski’s Blog of Proximal Development caught my attention. After sharing his experience when a student attended a parent teacher interview, he concluded in Parent Teacher Interviews 2.0:

“It’s time to remind everyone involved that we are not here to dispense but to converse and engage. We cannot do that if the doors to our classrooms are closed to our students when their teachers and their parents meet to talk about their learning and the plans and strategies for the future.”

This caught me off guard, seeing these “conferences” (as they were called in my experiences) as opportunities for student, teacher, and parent to talk about learning. As did Chris Lehman’s comment:

” I always tell the kids, we talk to you, not about you.”
thinking about how “talking with” changes all dynamics.

In the comments, Clarence Fisher admits:

“When parents, kids and teachers are on board, it is an empowering experience for learners, but”………….

And Jen Ealy commented:

“And I have heard of other educators who teach at the secondary level, allow the students to help in the development of personal IEP goals, attend the meeting and actually run the meeting. The students have a greater ownership, confidence and pride when they are “in charge” of their future. After all, it is all about the best for our students.”

Thomas Carroll, in a 2000 article that is more than timely today, strongly advocates for networked learning communities in which the roles of student and teacher change dramatically to that of expert and novice learner in which he suggests:

”The teacher needs to get in there and be part of the learning process, actively engaged in solving the problem with the students and learning with the students—not teaching but modeling learning with the students by functioning as an expert learner solving problems and constructing new knowledge with the students.” Page 10 of 24

“The focus will be on the learning and collaborative knowledge construction in which we engage.” Page 20 of 24

What are the possibilities when we view conferences with students, parents and teachers as part of the learning process, that of reflection and evaluation? What can happen when we model for youngsters as an expert learner how we reflect upon and evaluate what we learn, scaffolding for them the skills they need to hold their own conferences?

In 2002 and 2003, having explored strategies for holding a conference and reflected upon all they had learned, rubric in hand detailing criteria for success, my students conducted their own conferences. Empowering is an understatement--- Parents glowed and asked questions of their son/daughter. Youngsters smiled, trembled, hesitated and for the most part carefully laid out all they had learned, areas in which they had done their best, where there was room for improvement and how they planned to improve. For youngsters who had not done their best, there were often tears interspersed and a renewed goal to take charge of their learning. Only when they and their parents had finished, did I enter in the conversations. What transpired was life changing in a number of cases!

What if we called them “Learning Conferences”? What if “student led” became the norm? Just imagine (leave the “but”s and the reservations behind) the possibilities!