Guest Post by Teacher Tech Member Natalie Miller-Wolf
A handful of years ago, the first year we truly did Student-Led Conferences, I was sitting at a table with a parent, both of us on the verge of water-works, as his son confidently presented his work, talked about his goals, and how making his family proud was what he strived for. I was hooked. (And I think to myself…WHY DIDN’T YOU RECORD THAT?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?”)
It seems as though every year, there is something new to add, something to change, a new school requirement to talk about. But ya know what? It’s so much more meaningful to have the students talk about it! And, not to mention, the life skills of communication, goal-setting, and reflection. This is the template that we used this year (slidesgo FTW!). And a shout out to our Special Education Teacher, Kristin James, for the modified version! Another piece that’s nice? When there’s a script or some sort of template, it also helps families who speak another language. (I’ve had students TRANSLATE THEIR OWN CONFERENCE! How cool is that?!?! Again – brings me to tears.)
Three main things I’ve learned from Student-Led Conferences:
If you want families to be engaged…this is a great way to do it! Over the past years, my SLC turnout is close to 100%. Families have given great feedback!
It gives students a chance to own their learning, AND to own the conversation. You learn *so much* about them. Families are so proud when the student leads…and, if it’s not done, that’s always a connecting moment.
Relationships. Enough said.
There are challenges (if you’re in education, you *know* it’s not always a walk in the park) – supporting other staff members, supporting students with the pre-work, scheduling, time, time, time, time – but the benefits definitely outweigh the challenges. I will never *not* do conferences this way. (Oh, and a bit of advice. Make sure to have a box of Kleenex on the table. For the happy tears.)
About Natalie Miller-Wolf
About me: This is my 11th year as an educator in Madison, WI, and I teach 7th and 8th grade AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination), along with schoolwide AVID Coordination and Academic and Career Planning Coordination. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and a Master’s Degree in Educational Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I am an educator committed to restorative and anti-racist pedagogy, both in curricula development & implementation and professional support & development.