Reimagining Fall Conferences
The pandemic has given us the opportunity to shift our mindset and thinking regarding the way we have traditionally approached education with our students and families. In many ways, the shift is for the better. This includes rethinking our approach to fall conferences with our families.
During fall conferences at the elementary level, we have traditionally shown families where their student was performing comparatively to their typical grade level peers or on standardized assessments, in reading, writing, and math. With such a disruption to education, using the term “grade level” to describe where a child is performing is currently not an accurate portrayal of a student’s ability to learn. Most children will be “behind or not at grade level” if we use that example. Children are not behind, their learning has been disrupted and the trajectory has changed. It will take years to overcome the effects of the pandemic on our children but if done right and consistently, it can be done.
At conferences, parents will want to know, “how is my child doing?” Assure them that their child’s mental health and well-being is the most important focus right now. Use the conference time to focus on learning all about your student from their family in order to strengthen the school/family partnership and show the family you truly care about their child.
Share with Families Two Goals
1. Social and Emotional Wellbeing
Possible questions to send home prior to conferences so families can come prepared to talk:
- What are your hopes and dreams for your child?
- What is something special you do at home that is important to your child?
- Do you have any important cultural traditions?
- How does your child interact with his/her siblings or neighborhood kids at home?
- What is something at home your child does well?
- What is something at home your child struggles to do?
- What is a typical day like for your child?
- What do you hope your child will learn at school this year?
- What is something that I can do to support you and your child?
- What does your child say about school?
- What questions do you have for me?
2. Acceleration of Learning
- Prioritizing the most important standards
- Meeting students where they are at
- Focused on growth
For additional information, please see your administrator.
In many ways, this year is feeling harder than last year. How is that possible? What can be done to help?
As we attempt acclimation to a new school year, educators, students, and families continue to experience changes and conditions that are unexpected and unwanted.
Equipped with nervous systems designed to operate briefly at crisis response (also known as “surge capacity”) levels, days can feel like weeks and each month, a year. Chronic exposure to unmanageable and unpredictable stress is at the heart of what makes the pandemic a slow-moving, traumatic experience for everyone involved with schools.
At the same time, we recognize that all students, families, and educators are experiencing significant challenges, and teachers are facing the realities of dysregulation every period of every day. Dr. Bruce Perry’s core message is instructive in this regard: If we are to work with students in a way that fosters their ability to reason and reflect (critical for internalizing, retaining, and applying new knowledge), we first need to make sure that they are emotionally regulated and able to relate to their teachers and each other. Here is our mantra for this work:
In building relationships and fostering powerful connections, entire communities benefit. When our interactions are full of compassion, grace, and hope, there is profound potential to heal, strengthen, regulate, and create belonging—whether it’s holding a door, negotiating an extension on an assignment, or reassuring an exhausted parent or colleague that they are not alone.