Thursday, November 7, 2013

Conference Week!


 I have to admit, I have a slight obsession with Shark Week. (Although my fiance/family might say it is more than slight) I look forward to that week every August (usually when I happen to be at the beach) to learn all sorts of new things about these under-sea monsters. Ahh....summer. So that begs the question: what's more nerve-wracking? Parent/teacher conferences or great white sharks?

As you all know, I like to stay organized and on top of EVERYTHING so I don't stress out about the amount of work. When I get stressed, I can feel like I am in the presence of a terrifying shark with terrifying, sharp white teeth! So here are my suggestions to make parent/teacher conference prep, and the meetings themselves, be smooth sailing! (How are you enjoying my nautical/oceanic puns?)

Remember that "Student Info" binder I told you about in my second post? Well, since the year started, I have been adding various work to each child's section. Spelling reviews, math check-ins, reading conference notes are all present and accounted for in the binder.  Then I marked pages with a post-it in their reading/writing notebooks and math workbooks to highlight their progress on work we have been doing in the classroom. Finally, I went through their folders for any worksheets/graphic organizers from reading/writing/social studies.

Remember that stripey portable file folder from the previous post I mentioned above? It was perfect for separating each student's work to take home for conference prep:

At my school, teachers are required to hold a 40 minute conference for each student. Monday through Thursday, teachers can have up to six conferences scheduled between 3:30-8:15 that families sign up for (with an hour for dinner which is nicely provided for us!)

So when do we prepare for all of these meetings? At my school, every classroom has a head teacher (me) and an assistant teacher. During conference week, the assistant teachers team up with a specialist teacher to hold down the fort for the week.

Where am I, you might ask? Well...I get each morning AT HOME, Monday-Thursday, to prep and plan for the meetings with parents in the afternoon. It has proved to be quite nice. I get to sleep in an extra hour or so, hit the gym, make some coffee and focus on all of my students and their progress so far this year:

Although I love Philly, there are definitely things about NYC that I miss. I always think fondly of my old UWS neighborhood favorite, The Muffins Cafe, whenever I drink coffee out of this mug. If you are ever on 70th and Columbus, stop in and get the chicken salad sandwich, or a latte with one of their homemade pastries. Amazing stuff!

Anyway, I made a plan for myself for the kids I would work on each day. I decided to spend the end of the week before conferences writing up notes for the families I was to meet with on Monday, so Monday morning I worked on Tuesday's kids, Tuesday morning I worked on Wednesday' get the drift.

I organize my conference notes into categories:

1. Social/Emotional
2. Approach to learning
3. Math
4. Word Study/Writing
5. Reading
6. Social Studies

When parents come in for the conference, I always have paper and pens available for them to take notes. I also had a bowl of leftover Halloween candy (what else I was going to do with it? Eat it myself?) for parents to snack on.

I begin the conference by asking the parents how they feel the transition to 3rd/4th grade has been so far. Happy to say, mostly all of the parents have said VERY positive things about their child's transition to my classroom :)  Then, I get into the nuts and bolts of academics!

Of course, not ALL conferences are calm waters. Parents can get defensive or hung up on something that they feel passionate about that may not be a priority at the school/in the classroom. My best advice is to acknowledge their comments positively and suggest meeting again to discuss the issue further (maybe with an administrator/school psychologist/learning specialist). Luckily, I only had ONE awkward conference, and I let my principal know soon after how it went so she was in the loop. We have to remind ourselves as teachers that we are professionals who know what we are doing in the classroom and why we are doing it. We trained for this. It's a waste of time to beat ourselves up over nudge-y or high-stress parents!

I hope this advice is helpful for those of you in the midst of parent/teacher conferences. I am looking forward to a relaxing three-day weekend!

I leave you with some final Shark Week humor for the road (9 months in advance--always good to be prepared!)

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