My first night of conferences was a BIG success. Everyone showed up that was supposed to, and I even managed to fit in an extra conference that wasn't scheduled until tomorrow, which means I now have one less conference to do tonight.
The kiddos and I had spent the day organizing the classroom, cleaning, and doing some activities for conferences. One of the activities was writing letters to their parents, explaining what they wanted their parents to know. I'm a firm believer in the kids being a part of the conferences, so I discussed with the kids what I was going to talk about with their parents.
The room was pretty spotless by the time conferences started, and I was excited to get the chance to talk with everyone that came. I was so glad that I'd spent so much time preparing a conference binder to use, rather than relying on student folders (which had been my method the past two years). The binder kept me on track, and I was able to make sure I hit every subject that I wanted to discuss.
Thankfully, I didn't have to deliver too much bad news last night. I got to tell all the parents how much improvement I've seen from every student. I don't have a single student that hasn't made some significant gains in the first two months of school, and that's always my favorite part to share. When I was able to tell parents that their child started out the year reading on a second grade level, but is now reading on a mid to upper 3rd grade level in a matter of two months, it brought a lot of smiles to their faces. The same can be said for the growth in math. I showed the parents some work samples, and let them see for themselves the growth that I've been able to see with my very own eyes.
My favorite part of sharing is always the writing samples. I make the kids write a journal entry on their very first day of school, and then I made them write a piece of writing last week for me to compare it to. It's always fun, and often quite amusing, to see the look on parents' faces when I show their child's first piece of writing for the year. Then there's always that look of shock and pride when I show them how much different the writing looks just a couple of months later. I honestly had a couple of kids whose first piece of writing was comparable to something Jelly may have written. It's not because the kids don't know how to write, it's just that I catch them in that moment where they really haven't written anything in three months due to being out for summer, so the first writing sample is never wonderful. Which only makes my reveal of the recent writing that much more dramatic, because the handwriting, spelling, grammar, and how much sense the writing makes has gone through amazing changes.
The toughest part of conferences is always discussing homework. The most common concern I've always had to share with parents is missing assignments or low grades that are related to incomplete homework. I often hear the parent explaining that their child tells them there is no homework, and then they get to find out from me that there's homework missing. Conferences are a great time for me to explain to parents my homework policy, and the homework they should see coming home on a regular basis. That always helps the parents out, because now they know what they should be seeing their child bring home each week. I go over the spelling contract in depth with the parents, so they are aware of the expectations and purpose for the contract, and I even get to show the payoff that the contract has in spelling test scores. I didn't have a single parent who thought the amount of homework was unreasonable, and even received a few compliments on how they liked the contract because it was the same expectations each week. I even had a couple of parents ask about sending home more homework, which is actually something I've heard each year, and then I have to explain that I'm not a fan of sending homework home for the sake of giving it. I always make sure that I offer up some explanations on how they can help their child improve, though, if they think their child needs more practice.
Last night, I did receive one of the nicest compliments I think I've ever received. It didn't come from one of my students or even a parent. It came from a student that is now in 6th grade and was in the first class I had two years ago. She had come along with her dad and was with one of my current students. As I was standing in the hallway, making my introductions and greetings, she turned to her dad and said, "Dad, if it wasn't for this teacher, I wouldn't have made it to 6th grade". How flippin' sweet and awesome is that? Nobody has ever said anything like that to me before, and it felt amazing to think that she bases the success she's had since leaving my classroom on being in my class.
It wasn't the only compliment I received last night, but it was hands down the most meaningful compliment I think I've ever received. And it really reinforced why I do what I do. It's not just about how successful they are with me, but how they continue on their educational journey. I want to know that being in my class is something my kiddos remember, and somehow impacts them to continue being successful and trying hard. That was the perfect time for some encouragement, and it meant so much to me.
Another pretty special moment came when I was meeting with a parent, and was discussing some concerns I had with her child. They weren't really bad, and more about wanting her to child to put in more effort and really apply himself more to what we're doing in class. I think the student quickly felt the pressure rise, and he didn't waste anytime on trying to tell his mom how mean I am and how I make them miss recess time if they don't do their work. I think he thought that his mom would take his side and demand for me to explain why her child is missing recess for not completing work. Without skipping a beat, she looked straight at him and said "You know what? This woman isn't mean. She obviously cares about you, or she wouldn't make you miss recess. It sounds to me that she just wants you to do something with your life, so instead of whining about it, why don't you just do the work?" The look on his face was priceless. I really don't think he was expecting that at all. I then took that opportunity to explain to him exactly what his mom meant, and my reasoning behind taking away some privileges if he's not doing what he's supposed to. I felt relieved and pretty good that I had her support. It always means a lot to me when I have a parent backing me up.
I also wish I could have captured some of the expressions from parents when I handed them the graduation photo I had taken of their child a few weeks earlier. I even had a parent who got tears in her eyes when she saw her daughter's photo. I explained The Future is NOW project, and told them about my high expectations and wanting them to have solid goals and a purpose for learning. Almost every parent thanked me for doing it, and told me how important it was to them that their child does well in school and has a focus for the future. Once again, music to my ears.
All in all, a very successful night and I'm now pumped and excited to finish up the last four conferences I have this evening. I expect tonight's conferences to be just as successful.
Conference days may be long, they may be tiring, but when they're all said and done I'm so glad that we get to do them. It's so great to be able to share and discuss my students with their parents.
And I'll do it all over again, today.
Have a great Tuesday, everyone!!